The Falcons travel to play the Giants on Sunday in an NFC wild-card game. The Boston Globe looks at the matchup:
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
Where: East Rutherford, N.J
TV, radio: Ch. 25, WEEI
Falcons on offense: There is no shortage of weapons in the Atlanta arsenal. The lead gun is quarterback Matty “Ice’’ Ryan. The 6-foot-4-inch, 217-pounder is a cool customer with a rocket for an arm. Ryan sees the entire field, reads through his progressions quickly, and delivers some of the league’s prettiest spirals. A confident player with a fiery edge, Ryan is loved by teammates. His favorite and most reliable target is Roddy White. A rugged, 6-foot, 211-pounder with tremendous hands and deceptive speed and strength, White runs excellent routes and will make a ton of yards after the catch. Rookie Julio Jones (there are many Pro Bowls in his future) and tight end Tony Gonzalez (still playing at a Pro Bowl level) are excellent receivers. Tailback Michael Turner has power, quickness, and vision - he’s just as comfortable running over you as he is around you.
Giants on defense: Jason Pierre-Paul has become a force. The 6-5, 278-pound end has a frightening first step and a nonstop motor. He can collapse the pocket (16.5 sacks) and stuff runners (86 tackles). Active linebacker Michael Boley has a team-high 96 tackles.
Giants on offense: It’s not easy for a quarterback to fly under the radar when he throws for nearly 5,000 yards, but Eli Manning has done just that. In a season of ups and downs for the Giants, Manning has been the steady hand. A smart player with an underrated arm (nobody throws a better fade), Manning deciphers defenses quickly and will exploit favorable matchups. There was a time when Manning was easily rattled but he has morphed into a grizzled veteran. Victor Cruz has developed into a legitimate receiving threat. He has speed, good hands, and excellent field vision. Wideout Hakeem Nicks excels at finding soft spots and has good body control. Tailback Ahmad Bradshaw has surprising explosiveness and power. He runs low and hard. Brandon Jacobs is a big back who battles inconsistency.
Falcons on defense: Linebackers Curtis Lofton (a whirling dervish who explodes into opponents) and Sean Weatherspoon (a sideline-to-sideline player who specializes in vicious hits) are exceptional. Ageless end John Abraham (9.5 sacks) can still bring the heat. Safety Thomas DeCoud is a rangy ballhawk.
Special teams: Atlanta speedster Eric Weems is one of the league’s best return men. A small, shifty player with great speed and open-field moves and vision, he averaged 23.5 yards on 24 kick returns and 9.8 yards on 32 punt returns. He’s a threat whenever the ball is in his hands . . . Matt Bosher averaged 42.7 yards on 70 punts, landing 27 inside the 20-yard line . . . Veteran Matt Bryant nailed 27 of 29 field goal attempts with a long of 51 yards. He was perfect on 45 PATs . . . Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes hit 19 of 25 FGs, including a 61-yarder. He was 43 of 43 on PATs . . . Devin Thomas averaged 24.3 yards on 25 kick returns . . . Aaron Ross averaged 7.1 yards on 14 punt returns.
Miscellany: The Falcons and Giants enter the postseason each having won three of their last four . . . Atlanta is in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history . . . Coach Tom Coughlin (watch as his face goes from white to red to blue) has led New York to five postseason appearances . . . Falcons offense set a franchise mark with 6,026 net yards.