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For the New York Giants, the playoffs began a week early with a must-win game against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium. Dallas never had a chance. The Giants finally showed some life in the running game, Eli Manning and Victor Cruz hooked up for another big game, and the defensive line kept constant pressure on the quarterback throughout the game. The Giants come into Sunday’s wildcard game against the Atlanta Falcons healthy and rolling all on all cylinders, hoping to mirror that magical run of 2007.
Led by quarterback, Matt Ryan, the Atlanta Falcons come into Sunday’s game with little playoff success. Coming off an early exit as the number one seed last year, Ryan hopes to carry his 10-6 team to a victory, despite a playoff outside of the controlled dome atmosphere the Falcons call home. With surprisingly mild weather expected for Sunday’s game, the home field advantage of the Giants seems minimal. Coming off a career season starring a 92.2 passer rating and over 4,000 yards passing, Ryan and his receivers, Roddy White and Julio Jones, will look to have a big day. Add to that the Michael Turner’s 1,340-yard rushing season and you get one of the strongest, well- balanced attacks in the NFC playoffs.
Eli Manning has been here before. He’s won a Super Bowl as a wildcard team, relishing in the underdog role that labeled the 2007 Giants. This year, the Giants come into the playoffs as the NFC East champions, but as an underdog nonetheless. After another hot start, injuries looked to put an end on another disappointing season, but with Manning’s fourth quarter heroics highlighting a career year that came a mere 67 yards short of 5,000 yards passing, the Giants look to be playing their best football of the year at just the right time. However, home playoff games have not been a kind to Manning’s Giants and in 2007 Manning had a dominant run game and defense to lean on. This year, there is a lot more weight on his shoulders.
The Giants defensive line is as healthy as it has been all season. Behind Jason Pierre-Paul, New York’s front line will have its work cut out for them because of the balance that Turner’s rushing yards bring to the Atlanta passing game. It is more important for the Giant’s defense to stop Turner in order to stop the Atlanta offense.
Victor Cruz has had a big play in each of the last two games, making him the Giants biggest threat. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs have had some success of late. If that success carries over into Sunday’s game, Manning will have a big game and lead the Giants to a big win over Atlanta.