New York Giants News and Notes: Week 18 Hump Day Edition

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 01: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts after a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Georgia Dome on January 1, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Good morning fellow Giants fans, and welcome to Week 18 Hump Day. We haven't had one of those that mattered in a few years--four years, if you want to be technical about it. That's because our last Week 18 game was in Tampa in the wild card round in early 2008. You might remember that in January 2009, we had a bye for Wild Card Sunday and then got trounced at home by the Eagles in Week 19. I know you all remember, as I do, and it hurt like hell. But hey, it's 2012, and unlike Tampa week four years ago, the Giants have a home game this time, against the Atlanta Falcons. The Giants haven't played Atlanta since the 2009 regular season, when the Giants won 34-31 in overtime. This one has a bit more meaning than that game, but don't be surprised if the score is that close again. Meanwhile, let's see what news is floating around the Big Blue Web the morning after an off day for the G-men....

Giants Keep Resilience Amid Arid Stretch - NYTimes.com
The Giants have clinched the N.F.C. East, but their postseason seems unlikely to have the catch-and-run longevity of a Victor Cruz reception. At 9-7, the Giants are the first team to finish atop their now mediocre division with fewer than 10 wins since the N.F.L. went to a 16-game schedule in 1978. Even with the encouragement of their 31-14 victory over Dallas on Sunday, the win seemed more like a consolation prize than the start of a championship run, the equivalent of a college basketball team’s taking the National Invitation Tournament when the more elusive and esteemed trophy is handed out by the N.C.A.A.

Giants have to beat Falcons QB Matt Ryan - NYPOST.com
Despite his gaudy regular-season statistics, No. 3 overall pick pedigree and catchy "Matty Ice" nickname, Atlanta’s celebrated passer has yet to win a playoff game in four NFL seasons.

Well yeah, but that doesn't make the guy any less dangerous, especially with an incredibly dangerous trio of receivers in Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez.

Fatal flaws of NFL playoff teams - NFL - Yahoo! Sports
To put it another way, every postseason qualifier has some fatal flaw that it will have to get around in order to find success. Here’s a breakdown of each team’s glaring weakness....(the Giants' weakness was a crappy running game)

Giants running attack now a concern entering playoffs | ajc.com
The Giants, the Falcons' opening-round playoff opponent on Sunday, finished the regular season last in the NFL in rushing offense; they averaged just 89.2 yards on the ground. The Falcons finished 17th with 114.6 yards per game. Still, the running game presents a challenge to the Falcons, according to coach Mike Smith.

No seriously, did he watch the film? Or is he just being nice?

Mike Smith, Falcons coach, wants to learn from past failure before playing Giants - NYPOST.com
With Smith in his first season as coach and Matt Ryan starting as a rookie quarterback, the Falcons lost to Arizona in the first round of the playoffs after the 2008 season. The Falcons had a first-round bye last year before losing 48-21 to Green Bay. Smith said it's important the Falcons (10-6) learn from the losses. He said based on those lessons he is planning tweaks to the Falcons' practice this week.

NY Giants mouthy safety Antrel Rolle, no-nonsense coach Tom Coughlin finally connecting as Big Blue prepares for playoffs - NY Daily News
Antrel Rolle was still glancing across town last January, envying the party going on in Florham Park, N.J. He saw the Jets having fun, playing for a coach "they would die for." He definitely did not feel the same. There were moments last season, Rolle admits now, when he regretted his decision to sign a five-year contract to play for a team coached by Tom Coughlin, even for $37 million and $15 million guaranteed. The Pro Bowl safety wasn’t having fun. Coughlin was "too uptight" and crushing the chemistry and will of his players.

Ha! Take that, Rex.

D'Alessandro: Victor Cruz puts Giants one step closer to their goal with his astonishing play | NJ.com
The only difference this latest performance made to his life, as far as Victor Cruz could tell, was the volume of text messages he had to scroll through Sunday night. "There were about 50 this time," he explained. "That’s probably about double what I get."

New York Giants playoff report: Victor Cruz's rise continues - NFL - Sporting News
A University of Massachusetts product, Cruz cleaned up much of the sloppiness that led to poor routes and fumbles

NY Giants' Mathias Kiwanuka knows Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan is a hard quarterback to handle - NY Daily News
Mathias Kiwanuka knows what Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan can do to an opposing defense. They played together for two seasons at Boston College, and the Giants linebacker was impressed.

Andy Reid will be back as Eagles coach - NYPOST.com
Eagles chairman Jeffrey Lurie says coach Andy Reid will return for his 14th season in Philadelphia, though he left open the possibility for changes on the coaching staff. Lurie called this 8-8 season the "most disappointing" of his ownership. He also used words like "dismal," "unfathomable," "ludicrous," and "terrible" to describe it.

Cowboys-Giants gets best Sunday night rating - chicagotribune.com
The New York Giants' victory over the Dallas Cowboys earned the highest overnight rating in the six-year history of Sunday night football on NBC. According to data released Monday by The Nielsen Company, the Giants' 31-14 win to take the NFC East got a 17.1 overnight rating and a 27 share, 36 percent higher than last year's Week 17 game between the Rams and Seahawks to decide the NFC West.

36 percent higher than last year's Rams/Seahawks game? Wow, that's shocking.

Green Bay Packers news | Oddsmakers: It'll be Packers vs. Giants in divisional playoff | Green Bay Press Gazette
A Packers-Giants playoff matchup would be intriguing. The Giants came to Lambeau four years ago in the NFC title game as the No. 6 seed in the NFC and stunned the No. 2 seeded Packers. Giants coach Tom Coughlin would love the chance to pull off another playoff shocker on the Frozen Tundra. But first, the Giants must dispose of the Falcons, and the Saints must extinguish the Lions’ hopes.

I don't know about you guys, but I really hope we get to see Tom Coughlin's shiny red nose again.

And hey, for any of you guys looking to scratch a fantasy itch in the postseason, I will be putting an informal league together at www.playoffblitz.com. It won't be for money, just fun, but I did it last year and it was a great way to stay interested in all the games (although this year most of us will be paying more attention anyway). So if you're interested in playing, shoot me an e-mail at mike@michaeljmedia.com. There is no limit to how many players we can have. Thanks (and thanks for the plug, Ed!).

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