With the first week of the fantasy football playoffs in the books, I took two things from the Giants win over the Falcons:
No matter how hot the seat will get under Tom Coughlin, he always manages to pull through.
Since winning the Super Bowl in 2007, the Giants:
- 2008 - Were knocked out of the Divisional Round by the Eagles after locking up the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
- 2009 - Were eliminated from playoff contention in Week 16.
- 2010 - Failed to make the playoffs, despite a 10-6 record.
- 2011 - Beat the Falcons 24-2 and ???.
Not only did Eli Manning and the offense step up in a big way, led by Manning's 3 touchdown passes, but the defense, who lost Aaron Ross to a head injury, stepped up by holding Atlanta's offense to 263 total yards. That's big considering Ross was one of a few Giant defensive backs who missed time this year. It will always be debated on whether or not teams who win their divisions, despite losing records, deserve a home game. But it helped in this case (And the Broncos win over the Steelers).
Which brings me to my second point:
Is Matt Ryan going to be the next Tony Romo? Great in the regular season, but chokes come playoff time?
I don't want to spend a lot of time on this since the Falcons are knocked out of the playoffs and I want to get into the Packers game. But in 3 playoff appearances, all losses, Ryan has averaged 194.7 passing yards a game with a 3:4 TD:INT ratio. The debate should continue. I'll get bashed by Falcons fans for even mentioning this, but it's looking like the Falcons are slowly becoming one of the OVERRATED teams of the NFC.
But that's a debate we can go into during the offseason.
With the Giants win Sunday, they will fly to Green Bay to take on the Packers this weekend on Sunday, January 15 at 4:30pm EST. The Giants have some recent history with the Packers in Lambeau Field during the playoffs. During their Super Bowl run in 2007, they faced a, then, Brett Favre led team and won 23-20 after Favre threw a crucial interception to Corey Webster, which set up the Giants' game winning field goal in overtime. This game wound up being Favre's last as a Packer after retiring, un-retiring and then being traded to the Jets.
The last time the Giants met an Aaron Rodgers led Packer team, they got thrashed by a score of 45-17 in Week 16 of the 2010 season. Manning threw for 301 yards, 2 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, while Rodgers blew up to the tune of 404 passing yards, 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.
So what do I expect from this game? Well, I'd like to think, as an NFL purist, that it's going to be a close one. But I have a feeling the score is going to be more like the Rodgers score than Favre's.
For fantasy purposes:
Both Manning and Rodgers are strong options. I expect both to come close, or surpass 300 yards each. The difference will be the turnovers, which I think Rodgers will win given Manning's history. My obvious choice is Rodgers over Manning if you can only pick one.
Against a Falcons Defense that only allowed 15.3 fantasy points a game to running backs during the regular season, both Brandon Jacobs (14 carries - 92 yards) and Ahmad Bradshaw (14 carries - 63 yards) ran hard, combining for a 5.55 yards a carry average. Bradshaw still showed he is reliable as a PPR option, catching 5 passes with Jacobs catching only 2. James Starks will get the start, but I don't know if I could count on either he or Ryan Grant after the Giants held Michael Turner to 41 yards. The Giants backfield gets the nod in this matchup.
Since I expect a lot of passing yards from both teams, everyone is fair game....almost. Hakeem Nicks looked like a beast with 115 yards and 2 touchdowns, but even Mario Manningham (1TD) got into the action. The Falcons game-plan was clearly to take out Victor Cruz, which worked after he racked up only 2 receptions for 28 yards. I expect Cruz to bounce back this week. As for the Packers, Greg Jennings finally makes his return after missing the last 3 regular season games with a knee injury. He's my top fantasy guy this week. Jordy Nelson figures to be the No. 2, with James Jones as a possible sleeper option. Sorry to say, I still see no love for Donald Driver. With so much talent on both sides, I call this a tie.
I won't even go into this with too much detail. Jermichael Finley is clearly the better option over Jake Ballard. 'Nuff said.
Given the fact that this weekend has been a wacky one (Who would have thought the Steelers would make Tim Tebow look like John Elway?), this game could easily go either way. The Packers' running game could be the deciding factor. But even if Starks or Grant can't get anything done, I still expect the Packers to win by the score of 31-17. Rodgers and the passing game will be too much for the Giants secondary, with Manning and his interceptions being the deciding factor in the end.