Matt Ryan is a fourth year quarterback, Tony Gonzalez is in his fifteenth season. Neither has ever won a game in the playoffs. This Sunday they get a chance to change all that against the Giants.
Not time to panic This time last year Aaron Rodgers had never won in the post-season. Like Ryan, Rodgers became a full-time starter in 2008. Matty Ice now wants to emulate his counterpart in Green Bay by turning the Falcons into Super Bowl champions. NFL betting fans know there’s no questioning the talent on this Atlanta offense. Julio Jones has proven a great addition to a unit that already featured Michael Turner and Roddy White. The Falcons may have won less this year but they have more tools to hurt opponents in the playoffs. Defensively the Falcons’ strengths remain in the front seven but the secondary is headed in the right direction.
Can Big Blue win by playing tight? Victor Cruz has been a revelation this season. For all of the wide receiver’s explosive play, this year saw a more controlled display by Eli Manning. The younger Manning brother threw 9 fewer interceptions this season than in 2010. The Giants were more conservative in the passing game but by protecting the ball, Eli gave them a better chance to win. Whereas last season was a mixture of highs and lows, Manning only had one truly dreadful outing in 2011 and that was back in Week 5 against Seattle.
The potency of Atlanta’s offense will tempt New York to open up more in the playoffs. Their strong running game will certainly come under pressure and a few bombs from Eli would help relieve the pressure. Such a change wouldn’t just be risk; it would also be a massive change in identity for these Giants. For Big Blue to win, the Giants must stick to the plan set down this season.
The verdict I was legitimately stunned when I saw the Giants installed as -3.0 favorites for this game. While that would make this a toss up on a neutral field, I can’t see how the Falcons aren’t favored. Atlanta’s offense can hurt New York and the defense should be able to slow the run game substantially. This will be far from a walk in the park for Atlanta but they have a much more intimidating line-up than the Giants. I like Tony Gonzalez to finally win a playoff game this Sunday, setting Atlanta up for potential re-match with the Packers in the Divisional round.