Things really couldn’t have worked out better for the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday ... except for the Dallas Cowboys defeating the New York Giants for the NFC East title.
The Falcons entered the final day of the NFL regular season sixth in the NFC standings, and they were staring a game with NFC South rival New Orleans in the first round of the playoffs right in the face. A third game with the Saints would not have been a good thing for the Falcons.
But Sunday brought a blowout Atlanta win over Tampa Bay, and coupled with Green Bay beating Detroit -- even with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers sitting out the game -- that moved the Falcons up to fifth in the standings. That helped Atlanta avoid the Saints, who beat the Falcons twice in the regular season, once in overtime and once in a blowout.
Moving up to fifth sends the Falcons to New York to face the Giants on Sunday in an intriguing matchup. Sure the Giants have a terrific quarterback in Eli Manning and a lot of weapons on offense, and they have a reputation for playing good defense, but this looks like the best matchup for the Falcons (again, outside of the Cowboys).
Atlanta has its own talented quarterback, and if it will follow the game plan that has made it a good team since Mike Smith took over as its head coach -- run the ball, use the play-action pass and play steady defense -- Sunday’s game should be enjoyable for Falcons fans. The Giants have made their name with defense in recent years, and that unit did lead to a Super Bowl title a few years ago, but this year’s New York team hasn’t been very good on that side of the ball.
In fact, Manning pretty has much carried the team this season as the Giants squeezed out a 9-7 record. Just take a look at the teams’ rankings in the regular season:
Passing offense: Atlanta eighth, New York fifth.
Rushing offense: Atlanta 17th, New York 32nd.
Total offense: Atlanta 10th, New York eighth.
Scoring offense: Atlanta seventh (25.1 points per game), New York ninth (24.6).
Passing defense: Atlanta 20th, New York 29th.
Rushing defense: Atlanta sixth, New York 19th.
Total defense: Atlanta 12th, New York 27th.
Scoring defense: Atlanta 18th (21.9), New York 25th (25.0).
Granted, the game isn’t all about the numbers or rankings, but this is a really favorable matchup for the Falcons and one they have to feel good about their chances of winning.
Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org