Atlanta Falcons (10-6 SU, 7-7-2 ATS) at New York Giants (9-7 SU, 8-7-1 ATS)
Sunday January 8th, 2012. 1:00PM EST, NFL Wildcard Playoffs
MetLife Stadium East Rutherford, N.J.
By Jay Horne, NFL Handicapper of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Atl +3/NYG -3
Over/Under Total: 47
NFC powers will collide in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs this Sunday when the New York Giants host the Atlanta Falcons inside MetLife Stadium. Despite owning the higher seed and home field advantage, the Giants just barely made the playoffs thanks to an NFC East clinching win last week against the Cowboys 31-14. The Giants have notoriously made late season charges over the last few years and that was the case again this year as the Giants won their final 3 of 4 games. Now that the Giants are into the postseason, perhaps they can put together another magnificent playoff run with QB Eli Manning at the helm.
If the Giants are going to experience more success in the postseason, they will have to overcome a very talented Atlanta Falcons team that has playmakers all over the field. Despite a slow start earlier this year, the Falcons closed out the year by winning 8 of their last 11 games. The Saints (twice) and the Texans were the only teams to defeat the Falcons during that stretch. Needless to say, Atlanta has been playing very well on both sides of the ball and should present some challenges to a Giants team that will enter as mere 3 point favorites this Sunday.
Even though the Falcons have been red hot down the stretch, it has not stopped the betting public from favoring the Giants this Sunday. Early betting action shows that slightly over 60% of wagers have favored the Giants against the spread. In regards to the total 47 mark, an outstanding 80% or more of public betting action has sided with the “over” as both offenses are seemingly expected to shine.
In fact it will be hard to expect a low scoring game this Sunday with so much talent on the offensive side of the ball. QB Eli Manning is well-known to play great on the big stage. Manning completed 24 of 33 passing last week for 346 yards and 3 scores in the win against the Cowboys. WR Victor Cruz has been simply unstoppable all year and shattered the Giants all-time single season receiving record with 1,536 yards on the year.
In the last two outings, Cruz has posted huge numbers catching 9 passes for 342 yards and 2 scores. While Cruz has provided the big plays, WR Hakeem Nicks has had an excellent season as well with 1,192 yards and 7 scores. Both receivers present tremendous challenges for a Falcons secondary that has given up 236 yards per game on the year. If the Giants passing attack can continue to make those big plays again this Sunday, they will be extremely tough to beat to say the least.
Still on the other side of the field, the Falcons have plenty of offensive firepower as well. QB Matt Ryan has a couple of big names targets in TE Tony Gonzalez, WR Roddy White, and WR Julio Jones. Jones has emerged into a big play threat and is flirting with the 1,000 yard receiving plateau. Veteran Roddy White has posted yet another great season with 1,296 receiving yards on the year and of course Tony Gonzalez is a threat anytime near the end zone.
Just like the Falcons secondary, the Giants pass defense has been very suspect against the pass giving up 255 yards (29th in NFL) per game. Therefore, QB Matt Ryan should have the opportunity to show off his arm and get those big name receivers involved often. The main goal for the Falcons and Ryan has to be to protect the football. In the Falcons 6 losses this year, Atlanta has turned the ball over 13 times compared to just 8 giveaways in their 10 victories. Therefore turnovers or the lack thereof could be very telling for Atlanta’s chances this Sunday.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I expect an offensive performance here and side with the public on the over. With that being said, I like the Falcons to win the game. Atlanta matches up well against the Giants defense and I believe they can keep the big plays to a minimum on defense to get the job done. Take Atlanta +3.
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