Atlanta vs. New York Giants: Sizing Up The Falcons Opponent
The game between the Falcons and the Giants is about as even a contest in the NFL this week that you will see.
A solid set of receivers on the Falcons roster, facing an improved secondary in the Giants defense. Two quarterbacks that can sling it all over the field – one in Eli Manning looking to find his stride in a new offense, the other in Matt Ryan, who is just coming into his own as an elite passer.
The defense for the Falcons is improved, yet injuries have done harm to the starting secondary. The Giants have shown improvement in the pass rush and the secondary is as solid as it was two seasons ago.
You never see equality in the NFL, rather you hope for it. This game could prove equality exists.
These clubs have met 21 times, with the Falcons holding a one-game edge (11-10) in the all-time series. Falcons head coach Mike Smith owns a 1-1 regular season record against the Giants, including a 34-0 shutout win at the Georgia Dome in 2012. Under Smith, the Falcons are 7-5 against NFC East opponents and 24-26 on the road.
Here are a few things to know regarding a Falcons win on Sunday, according to the team’s website and Reid Ferrin.
Top Matchup: Falcons T Jake Matthews vs Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul
If the Falcons are going to win the Week 5 matchup, QB Matt Ryan is going to need to be protected, especially from his blindside, a responsibility Matthews embraces at left tackle. The team's top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft will see plenty of Pierre-Paul, who enters the contest with 22 tackles and 1.5 QB sacks. "He's a really good player, really explosive, long and powerful," Matthews said. "He's got arms for days, so he's going to be a really good challenge for me."
Under the Radar Player to Watch: Falcons S Kemal Ishmael
Ishmael is being asked to help fill the big shoes of Falcons S William Moore, who is out for the next 6-8 weeks with a shoulder injury. As if his tireless work in the offseason isn't proof enough that he's ready, Ishmael's pick-six against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3 is just a glimpse of the playmaking ability the team needs from its secondary, especially against the likes of Giants TE Larry Donnell, who leads the team with 25 receptions and four TDs.
On the Radar Player to Watch: Falcons QB Matt Ryan
When you're the NFL's second-leading passer like Ryan is, throwing for 1,263 yards, you're always on the opposition's radar. The team's signal-caller has completed 101 of 152 throws, including 10 TDs in 2014, good enough for a passer rating of 100.3. For the season, he's thrown five INTs, all away from the Georgia Dome, but during the two-career games Ryan faced the G-Men in the regular season, he completed 49 of 74 passes for 538 yards and five TDs, with no INTs.
Number of the Game: 341
The Falcons have worked all week to improve in all three phases, including their run defense. Giants RB Rashad Jennings already has 341 rushing yards in 2014, including 2 TDs; if Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's crew plays disciplined football and up to its potential, limiting Jennings' yards could help lead to a third victory of the year.
THREE KEYS TO VICTORY
1. Win the Turnover Battle: The Falcons turnover ratio is minus-three, while the Giants are at plus-one; if the Falcons want a victorious plane ride home, they have to avoid the turnover bug, instead forcing Giants QB Eli Manning to commit a few of his own.
2. No Dancing Allowed: Giants WR Victor Cruz is one of the best slot receivers in the game, also potent on the outside; known for breaking out his salsa-dance celebration with every TD he scores (1 so far this season), the Falcons will benefit by preventing the ball from being in Cruz's hands.
3. Convert Third Downs: Too many three-and-out drives have proven costly for the Falcons in their two road defeats this season. In 2014, Atlanta is 27 of 49 (55 percent) on third down, while New York is 24 of 53 (73 percent). The Falcons offense is high-powered, but only when it's allowed to stay on the field: moving the chains on Sunday would open the door for the Falcons up-tempo style of play, hopefully quieting the 80,000-plus fans than will be cheering against them.