When The Giants Have The Ball
The Giants will be looking to build upon the success they had in their last two games, when they scored a combined 75 points and totaled 868 yards. The Falcons would seem like easy pickings, having surrendered 558 total yards and 41 points to the Adrian Peterson-less Vikings last Sunday, a team that was giving Teddy Bridgewater his first NFL start at quarterback. The Falcons are 31st in the league overall defensively, giving up 429.8 yards per game. Atlanta has generated only three quarterback sacks, 30th, in the league. The Falcons put starting safety William Moore on short-term IR this week with a shoulder injury.
There is, however, no such thing as easy pickings in the NFL. For the Giants, they must continue to do the things they did in victories over the Houston Texans and Washington Redskins. Protect Eli Manning, run the football efficiently, don't beat themselves with turnovers and drive-killing penalties.
Can tight end Larry Donnell, who has a team-high 25 catches and tied a franchise record for touchdown catches in a game by a tight end with three against Washington, continue his success? Can Eli Manning, completing more than 70 percent of his passes, the past two games, continue his razor-sharp accuracy? Can the Giants, second in the league in dropped passes, catch the ball? Can the rebuilt offensive line continue its stellar play?
When The Falcons Have The Ball
Atlanta might not have much of a defense. But, oh, that offense! The Giants are going to have their hands full trying to contain the high-flying Falcons. Atlanta is tied for the league-lead in yards per game with the Indianapolis Colts at 444.0, and second behind the Colts in points per game at 32.8. A 56-point Thursday Night Football explosion in a rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't hurt, but there is no denying the Falcons have weapons.
Quarterback Matt Ryan is averaging 306.3 yards passing per game, and enters Sunday with a passer rating of 100.3. The Falcons have superstar wide receiver Julio Jones (29 receptions) and Roddy White (14 receptions). They also throw the ball to Devin Hester and Harry Douglas, who each have 12 catches. The Giants have the tremendously talented duo of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamra at cornerback, and veteran Trumaine McBride in the slot. Safeties Antrel Rolle and Quintin Demps will be charged with the responsibility of keeping the explosive Falcons receivers in front of them, something Demps did well in his first start last week against Washington.
Getting pressure on the quarterback, of course, is always the best way to negate outstanding receivers. The Giants will look to take advantage of a wounded Atlanta offensive line. The Falcons this week placed two starting offensive linemen, center on season-ending injured reserve, losing center Joe Hawley and right tackle Lamar Holmes.
Atlanta's leading rusher, veteran Steven Jackson, has 201 yards on 50 carries (4.0 per carry).
All you need to know about the Falcons special teams is that they have Hester returning kicks. The best guy to ever do that, and the all-time leader in kick return touchdowns. Hester is averaging 15.3 yards on punt returns this season with a touchdown, and 25.6 yards on kickoff returns. The Giants had better hope that punter Steve Weatherford is dialed in Sunday and kicking the ball out of bounds consistently, and that veteran placekicker Josh Brown is feeling frisky and knocking kickoffs through the end zone.
For the Giants, punt retuner Preston Parker is averaging only 6.6 yards per return, but has lost a couple of long returns to penalties. Quintin Demps is averaging only 21.8 yards on kickoff returns. With Parker having a 34-yard kickoff return last week it will be interesting to see if Parker perhaps handles both chores.
The special teams wild card for the Giants is rookie Odell Beckham Jr. Head coach Tom Coughlin has said he expected Beckham to return punts this season, but Beckham has yet to play due to a hamstring injury. If Beckham is active Sunday, which is possible, perhaps he gets a couple of punt return opportunities.
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