The Giants host the Falcons as the playoffs get underway for Big Blue. Metro breaks down what to pay attention to in the wild-card opener.
What to watch for …
1. Run and done?
The Giants have struggled to stop the run at key times this season, allowing an average of 121 yards per game, and Sunday’s matchup might be their most difficult assignment. Falcons running back Michael Turner has churned out 1,340 yards and 11 touchdowns this season and Atlanta head coach Mike Smith has said all season that Turner — and that nasty offensive line — is what makes the Falcons go. If Big Blue is left black and blue via Atlanta’s run game, it could be a one-and-done playoffs for the home team.
2. Not in a rush
The Giants, conversely, have the worst rushing attack in the league, netting only 89.2 yards per game. They were led by Ahmad Bradshaw, who only tallied 659 yards and a 3.9 yards per carry mark in 12 games. For a better comparison of how weak Big Blue’s rushing attack has been, Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (660 yards and 5.4 per carry) had a better statistical season. That type of futility can’t happen Sunday if the Giants want to advance to the divisional round.
3. Maintain your balance
Quarterback Eli Manning (4,933 yards, 61 percent completion, 29 touchdowns and 16 interceptions) had a career regular season despite the lack of a running game, but it’s still imperative he gets some offensive balance. While head coach Tom Coughlin has full confidence that Manning can single-handedly carry the offensive burden, he’d rather not leave it in his hands fully. Not counting Manning’s incredible 2007 playoffs run, he’s had a history of coming up short in big moments in the past, especially at home. How well the Giants can balance the offense and allow Manning to work his play-action magic, will go a long way in determining whether Manning and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan need to engage in a shootout.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.