Giants-Falcons Preview

The New York Giants steamrolled Matt Ryan and the Atlanta

Falcons in the playoffs last season on the way to a fourth Lombardi

Trophy.

They’re not expecting this meeting to go quite as smoothly,

despite the Falcons’ latest performance.

In the hopes of moving closer to joining Atlanta in the playoffs

again, the NFC East-leading Giants may need another strong

performance from rookie running back David Wilson and the defense

Sunday in the Georgia Dome.

New York went on to win last season’s Super Bowl, a run that

started with a 24-2 rout of Atlanta. The Giants blanked the potent

Falcons, holding them to 247 yards – 64 rushing – while stopping

Atlanta on 10 of 14 tries on third down and all three on

fourth.

New York (8-5) is certainly not expecting Atlanta, tied with

Houston for the best record in the NFL at 11-2, to fall as easily

this time.

“They have two new coordinators in (defensive coordinator) Mike

Nolan and (offensive coordinator) Dirk Koetter,” coach Tom Coughlin

said. “They do bring their own personality and style to the way

that they’re playing, so there is a difference.”

Koetter’s offense relies heavily on Ryan, who is 68 passing

yards shy of becoming the first Falcon to top 4,000 in back-to-back

seasons. He’s also thrown 24 touchdown passes, five behind his

career high from last year.

Ryan was limited to 199 yards by New York in January, getting

sacked twice.

The Falcons rank fourth in the NFL with an average of 289.2

yards passing, while the running game is 28th with 86.9 per game –

68.4 over the past five contests.

New York, though, feels NFC South champion Atlanta is capable of

mixing things up with running backs Michael Turner and Jacquizz

Rodgers. However, they combined for a season-low 35 yards on 11

attempts in last week’s 30-20 loss at Carolina.

“They’re a little bit mixed up,” defensive end Justin Tuck said.

“I thought at the end of last year, they were a little bit more

leaning on the pass.

“They want to keep the chains moving, and they’re kind of a

check-with-me offense. It’s going to be a chess match a little more

than it was last year.”

If so, the Giants may feel at ease with a defense that is second

in the NFL in forcing turnovers (34) and interceptions (20). New

York made New Orleans cough up the ball four times in last week’s

52-27 win.

Ryan feels solving the Giants pass rush is important. Jason

Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, Chris Canty and Tuck have accounted for

17 of the team’s 31 sacks.

“The Giants are probably the best in the league,” Ryan said.

“They’ve got three top-tier pass rushers, and we know that from

playing them last year. They’ll present us with a difficult

challenge. Their front four is very solid. For four quarters, they

rush the passer as well as anybody in the league.”

Wilson gives the offense another threat after his breakout

performance against the Saints. He ran 13 times for 100 yards and

two touchdowns and returned a kickoff 97 yards for another

score.

The first-round pick should get his first start Sunday with

leading rusher Ahmad Bradshaw ruled out due to knee and foot

problems, and backup Andre Brown (broken leg) out for the

season.

“Maybe there’s a little more anticipation and a little more

excitement now,” Wilson said Friday after learning of Bradshaw’s

status.

While recent free agent signees Ryan Torain and Kregg Lumpkin

could get some carries, Coughlin feels Wilson can handle most of

the workload and could be a 20-carry back.

“There’s no reason why he couldn’t be,” Coughlin said. “Whether

he will be or not is a different thing. We have a couple other guys

who are going to help us in different ways.”

The Giants are averaging 132.0 yards on the ground in the last

four games, and the Falcons are surrendering 127.0 per game for the

season after allowing 195 to the Panthers – 116 by quarterback Cam

Newton.

Eli Manning isn’t likely to be the same threat, but he picked

apart Atlanta in the playoffs to the tune of 277 yards and three

touchdowns while completing 23 of 32 passes. He has eight TDs, two

interceptions and a 103.6 passer rating in the last three

games.

The Giants, who lead Washington and Dallas by one game in the

division, have won four in a row against Atlanta. New York is the

only NFC team Ryan has yet to beat.

“We just have to make sure Ryan doesn’t get too comfortable back

there,” Tuck said. “Otherwise, it’s going to be a long day for

us.”