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NFL Atlanta FalconsNew York Giants

Falcons vs. Giants NFL Week 15 Preview

The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

 

Playoff positioning is going to be on the line at the Georgia Dome when the Atlanta Falcons take on the New York Giants in Week 15. The Giants are fighting to maintain their lead in the NFC East, and the Falcons are fighting to maintain their top seed position for the upcoming playoffs.

Oh, there’s one more tiny backstory to this game…

A minor little 24-2 playoff beat-down that the Giants laid on the Falcons back in January.

The question is, are these two teams still the same teams from 11 months ago, or could we see a drastically different outcome?

With the exception of a few departed and acquired free agents, the Falcons personnel hasn’t changed much from January, nor has the Giants. So why should the results be any different?

Well for one, the Falcons are playing at home where they are much tougher to beat. Secondly, Atlanta has had almost an entire season with two new coordinators and will be coming at the Giants with much different looks on both sides of the ball. But even those to factors may not be enough for the Falcons to come out of this game with a victory.

This game is going to be won or lost at the line of scrimmage, and the Falcons haven’t fared too well against teams that forced them to be physical in the trenches this season. Last week’s embarrassing loss to the Carolina Panthers was a perfect illustration of this point. Atlanta’s offensive line and defensive front are going to have to strap up and get ready for physical, smash-mouth battles.

Atlanta will need to generate some pressure on Eli Manning and keep his receivers–Victor Cruz in particular–from having enough time to break free from the Falcons defensive backs. The same is exactly true for the Giants, who will need to try to contain Atlanta’s flock of talented receivers.

While both teams have big play potential on offense, and quarterbacks that have a knack for fourth quarter wins, they both have weaknesses that can be exploited on defense.

The Giants secondary has a knack for giving up big plays, and their defensive backs don’t play as well against big physical receivers like Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. If Atlanta’s offensive line can hold and keep Matt Ryan upright with decent throwing lanes, he should be able to hit receivers at will.

On the flip side, the Falcons have struggled defending the run this season, and the Giants discovered a a new weapon last week. A 5’10, 205 pound guided missile out of the backfield named David Wilson. If Wilson takes over the game the way he did against the New Orleans Saints, where he carried the ball for 100 yards and piled on another 227 yards in kick returns with three total touchdowns, Atlanta will be playing catch-up once again and will be in a world of trouble.

When you look at the various strengths and weaknesses of these two teams, it looks like a veritable stalemate. The Falcons must win the battles at the line and contain David Wilson, or they’ll be staring right down the barrel of their first losing streak of the season, and at possibly limping into the playoffs once again.

PREDICTION: It’s a tough call, but I think the Falcons come out fired up like they did two weeks ago against the Saints, and get an early lead. The Giants will make a run, but will come up just short.  Falcons by a point.

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Michael Collins is a Rant Sports NFL and MLB Network Manager, and Atlanta sports columnist. Follow him @GaSportsCraze on Twitter and here on Facebook