Saturday's NFC Wild Card weekend kicks off at 1 PM EST when the visiting Atlanta Falcons take on the New York football Giants, in a game that features two teams that have never faced each other in postseason play.
Both the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons boast a formidable passing attack that is anchored by some of the best outside receivers in the NFC, but both teams also feature a deceptive ground assault that could wind up being a difference maker.
For the Atlanta Falcons, facing the New York Giants on their own turf will be no easy feat. Thankfully, this team is anchored by one of the elite veteran receivers in the league in Roddy White, while rookie sensation Julio Jones mans the other side of the sidelines.
Conversely, the New York Giants feature their own set of explosive receivers in a slightly different format.
New York veteran receiver Hakeem Nicks has spent the season turning the corner from great receiver to formal elite status, but it has been the rise of Victor Cruz (primarily a slot receiver) that has often given the Giants a bona-certified secret weapon that no team has been able to shut down.
Each team also offers situational tight ends: Tony Gonzalez (Atlanta), Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum ( New York).
This game, however, is very intriguing considering where these teams were at the end of the regular season defensively.
The Giants were one of the worst teams in the NFL against the pass (ranked 29th), which does support the notion of Matt Ryan having a great opportunity here, but strategically, the Falcons ground game could wind up being their ace in the hole.
Towards the end of the season the Giants struggled against the run, and more importantly, they struggled to cover pass catching backs. While Atlanta running back Michael Turner hasn't done a whole lot in that role this season, he is a very prolific back catching the ball as either a check down option, or a featured target.
But the Falcons have also had their fair share of troubles against the pass.
One of the main issues with the Falcons secondary has been their inconsistent work against the better receivers of the league, especially against the deep-ball.
The Giants are a team that can move the ball at will if they want to, and have more options to explore than just Nicks and Cruz, with an additional deep-ball threat in WR Mario Manningham, and TWO running backs who have been utilized in the passing game: Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs.
The Giants may be forced to utilize their pass catching skills a bit more than usual as the Falcons stout run defense (ranked 6th in the league) will inevitably give the G-Men some trouble in the trenches.
The last time these two teams met was in the regular season (2009). The Falcons lost that contest in a nail biting bout 34-31 in OT.
While this contest—on paper—seems like a good old fashion shootout brewing, I am leaning more towards good old fashion ball control.
It's just a matter of which team does it the best.
I really do believe the Falcons will try to "contain" the Giants formidable passing attack by giving RB Michael Turner far more work than we've seen from him this season, making him not only a great "X" factor, but also a nice fantasy choice if you are still competing.
The Giants, on the other hand, could possibly try their hand at exploiting a Falcons pass defense that has been a little suspect all year, in an effort to jump on top early.
In the end, I really think the Falcons—as a congruent team—are the better competitor who possesses the slight edge, despite being on the road.
Final Score: Falcons 24 - Giants 20