Free NFL Wildcard Picks: Atlanta Falcons @ New York Giants NFL Playoff Vegas Odds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions on FOX 1/8/12: Last season, the Atlanta Falcons rolled into the playoffs with the best record in the NFC, only to be bounced in the divisional round by the eventual champion Green Bay Packers. After going 10-6 and grabbing a Wild Card berth this year, the Falcons will try to make a title run as an underdog this time around. The run will have to start this Sunday against the New York Giants (9-7), who are coming off a huge win against the Dallas Cowboys in the season finale that clinched the NFC East and a playoff spot. Winning the division gives the Giants the luxury of hosting the Wild Card matchup, and as a result, New York is a three-point favorite this weekend.
Two of the more underrated quarterbacks will be on center stage in this game. New York’s Eli Manning and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan flew under the radar with guys like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady having spectacular seasons, but Manning and Ryan were impressive in their own right. Both players threw for more than 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns. In fact, Manning finished just shy of 5,000 yards and set an NFL record with 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes. Meanwhile, Ryan finished the year on a hot streak, throwing 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions during the final seven games.
Manning and Ryan both have plenty of weapons to work with, and since neither Atlanta nor New York has a strong secondary, some serious points could be scored. The Falcons have one of the most polished route runners in the game in receiver Roddy White, and the addition of rookie Julio Jones has given the team a true deep threat. Meanwhile, tight end Tony Gonzalez continues to be a monster in the red zone and moving the chains over the middle. The Giants counter with the receiver tandem of Victor Cruz and Hakeem Knicks. Both players topped 1,000 yards this, and Cruz topped 1,500 yards. Nicks and Cruz both have speed to make explosive plays, but with his size, Nicks is more of the red zone target while Cruz has a knack for making big plays in the open field.
With both passing attacks likely to perform well, the matchup to watch could be the Giants’ defensive front versus the Falcons’ ground game. Atlanta running back Michael Turner was third in the NFL with more than 1,300 yards, and he can pound defenses into submission behind a very physical offensive line. Meanwhile, the New York front is finally healthy, with Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora joing Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants will attempt to put tons of pressure on Ryan to disrupt the Atlanta passing game, but if the Falcons counter with an effective dose of Turner, New York could struggle to slow down Ryan and company.
Experience is definitely in favor of the Giants. Manning and several other players are still around from the 2007 Super Bowl team, and New York has already had its season on the line in the final two games of the regular season and come away with wins. On the other hand, Ryan is 0-2 in the playoffs, and while the Falcons have been a strong regular season team the last two years, they have yet to prove they can win in the playoffs. More importantly, Atlanta has gone away from the ground game in critical situations throughout the year for whatever reason, and there is no guarantee the play calling will suddenly change. With the Giants’ fierce pass rush, the Falcons won’t be able to outscore New York in a pass-happy shootout.
Prediction: New York Giants (-3) Cover the Spread
Free NFL Football Picks and Predictions: New York Giants -3
|NFL Playoff Football: Atlanta Falcons @ New York Giants
Time: 1 PM EST on FOX
Vegas Odds – Favorite: NY Giants -3 | Total: Over/Under 47.5
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