November 20, 1966 the Atlanta Falcons and the New York Giants met for the first time with Atlanta coming away with a 27-16 victory. Cut to December 16, 2012 and the Dirty Birds and G-Men now meet each other for just the 21st time in the regular season. With both teams winning 10 games apiece during the regular season, (the Giants have the only Playoff win) the winner of this Week 15 matchup will lead the all-time regular season series. The question is which team will have lucky number 11 be in their favor?
With both teams currently leading their respective divisions, the Falcons have completed the first part of Coach Smith’s season goals. “Our goal is always to be a relevant team in December. To be a relevant team you’ve got to win football games,” Smitty said. “We’ve been able to accomplish that, and we’re playing against a team that has a lot on the line just like we do. It ought to be fun. I think it’ll be two really good football teams going out and competing against each other.”
As mentioned earlier this week, as things stand right now, the Giants would be the only NFC team in the Playoffs that Atlanta will have faced in the regular season. As far as statistics go, this has the potential to be a very exciting game.
With two of the premier quarterbacks in this game, it should be no surprise that both teams have very potent offenses with each team ranking in the top ten regarding points scored, total yards and passing yards per game.
Defensively, both teams have the “bend but don’t break” mentality. While neither team’s defense ranks in the top half of the league regarding total yards, passing yards and rushing yards, the only stat that truly matters is points allowed. Both New York and Atlanta rank in the top quarter of the league when it comes to limiting points.
Averaging just under 29 points per game, the Giants have the third most potent scoring offense in the league. New York’s total yards (372.9) and passing yards (256.5) per game both rank ninth in the league. The 116.4 yards on the ground each game for the Giants ranks them fifteenth in the league.
Atlanta’s scoring offense (25.9) and total offensive yards (376.2) are the eighth most in the league. Matt Ryan’s 289.2 passing yards per game is the fourth most in the league. Of course, Atlanta’s offensive Achilles heel has been its running game. Averaging less than 87 yards on the ground each game, the Falcons have the fifth worst rushing attack in the league.
While this may sound obvious, but with two high-powered offenses, the game will probably come down to whichever team can limit the big-plays. As mentioned, both defenses are not just in the top half of the league, but the top half of the top half when it comes to preventing points scored. The Giants give up 20.8 points a game, the eighth least while Atlanta gives up just 19.9, the fifth least.
If anybody knows a good defense, it’s the wily veteran tight end, Tony Gonzalez. Just because the Giants give up 376.2 yards per game, it does not mean the defense doesn’t have good players. “It’s going to take a special effort to go out there and get open and get some plays against these guys,” Gonzalez said. “I think we’re up for the challenge. We got to be. We have no choice. To get to where we want to go, we’re playing the World Champs, the team that bounced us out of the playoffs last year. We got to play this week and we’ve got to play well in order to win, so I’m looking forward to it.”
One of the main reasons for Atlanta’s offensive struggles in the past few weeks has been converting third downs. “I think it comes down to execution. We’re not executing like we’re capable of doing,” Gonzalez said. “We’re going to need it this week against this team. It’s been an emphasis for us and it’ll be different this week, hopefully.”
The Giants defense currently has allowed about 39 percent of third downs converted, with ranks them seventeenth in the league. Atlanta offense converts about 45 percent of their third downs, the third best in the league although they’ve been well below that in the past few games this season.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.