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Game Preview for Giants vs Falcons
(Sports Network) - It isn't quite the matchup that the NFL envisioned when it assigned a coveted primetime slot to the Week 6 Falcons/Giants clash, but Monday night's tilt at the Georgia Dome carries with it some intrigue nonetheless.
Most of the storylines will revolve around the streaking Giants, who can move to 4-2 and remain within the thick of the NFC East race with a win on Monday. Many had left Tom Coughlin's team for dead when it looked less-than-stellar and incurred numerous injuries in September losses to the Cowboys and Packers, but the G-Men have rebounded nicely. Consecutive victories over the Redskins (24-17), Eagles (16-3) and Jets (35-24) have raised hopes about New York's playoff prospects, and have kept the heat off of the perpetually embattled Coughlin, at least for the time being.
It is the much-publicized struggles of the Falcons, both on and off the field, that have stripped this matchup of at least some of its luster. With quarterback Michael Vick awaiting sentencing stemming from federal dogfighting charges, Atlanta has limped to a 1-4 start in head coach Bobby Petrino's first season on the job.
The once-prolific Falcons offense has been mostly stagnant thus far, including in last week's 20-13 loss at Tennessee. Atlanta could not benefit from five Titans turnovers in that game, and Petrino benched starting quarterback Joey Harrington late in favor of former Jaguar Byron Leftwich.
The Falcons did win the last time they were at home, however, a 26-16 win over the Texans in Week 4.
The Falcons lead the all-time series with the Giants, 10-8, but were 27-14 losers when the teams met at the Georgia Dome in Week 6 of last season. Prior to that game, Atlanta had won three in a row in the series, including a 14-10 road victory in 2004. The Giants have won in each of their last six trips to Atlanta, and the Falcons haven't won a home game in the series since 1978. The road team has won the last 11 installments of the series dating back to a 24-3 New York win at the Meadowlands in 1979.
Coughlin is 3-1 in his career against the Falcons, including 1-0 since coming to New York in 2004. Atlanta's Petrino, who was a member of Coughlin's staff in Jacksonville from 1999 through 2001, will be meeting his former boss and the Giants for the first time as a head coach.
WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL
Nothing has worked better for the Giants through their first five games than the connection between quarterback Eli Manning (1076 passing yards, 9 TD, 6 INT) and wide receiver Plaxico Burress (24 receptions, 7 TD). The duo has hooked up for seven touchdown passes thus far, placing Burress in a tie for the NFL lead in TDs, along with New England's Randy Moss, as Week 6 began. Burress continues to battle nagging ankle problems, but has yet to miss a game. Manning has fought through a shoulder problem to engineer three consecutive wins, though his 82.7 passer rating leaves something to be desired. Tight end Jeremy Shockey (18 receptions, 1 TD) and No. 2 receiver Amani Toomer (19 receptions) have also been frequent Manning targets. The running game received a boost last week, when Brandon Jacobs (126 rushing yards, 1 TD) returned from a three-game absence due to a knee injury to post his first 100-yard game as a pro. Derrick Ward (409 rushing yards, 20 receptions, 2 TD), who had filled in capably during Jacobs' time on the sideline, continued to make his presence felt with 13 carries for 56 yards and a score against the Jets.
If the Falcons defense can force turnovers against the Giants as it did versus Tennessee, Atlanta can at least hope to enter the fourth quarter with a chance. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall (9 tackles, 1 INT) was responsible for the biggest play of the day, a fumble return that he took 56 yards to the house in the first quarter for the team's only touchdown. Linebackers Demorrio Williams (17 tackles, 1 INT), Michael Boley (46 tackles, 1 INT), and rookie tackle Trey Lewis (12 tackles, 1 INT) all had interceptions of Vince Young in the defeat. The Falcons have not been great against the run, allowing 121.2 ground yards per game, but limited the Titans to just 92 yards on 32 carries last time out. Boley came through with a game-high 14 tackles in the defeat, and mammoth tackle Grady Jackson (16 tackles, 1 INT) set the tone with five stops in the trenches. Atlanta has eight sacks on the year, including four from top pass rusher John Abraham (10 tackles), but the Falcons did not manage to get to Young in Week 5.
WHEN THE FALCONS HAVE THE BALL
Petrino will stick with Harrington (1070 passing yards, 4 TD, 3 INT) this week after pulling his starter late in last week's loss to Tennessee. The move probably has as much to do with Leftwich's awful performance (2-of-8, 28 yards, 1 INT) as it does his notorious lack of mobility, which would have been severely underscored on Monday. The Falcons will be without both of their starting tackles - Wayne Gandy (knee, out for season) and Todd Weiner (knee) - meaning inexperienced reserves Renardo Foster (left side) and Quinn Ojinnaka (right) will have to fill in for a group that has already allowed a bloated 17 sacks on the year. If he has time to throw, Harrington will look most often to tight end Alge Crumpler (18 receptions, 1 TD) and wideouts Roddy White (21 receptions, 1 TD) and Michael Jenkins (16 receptions, 2 TD), all of whom have had their moments thus far. The Falcons' once-vaunted run game has been nonexistent in 2007, with neither Warrick Dunn (249 rushing yards, 1 TD) nor Jerious Norwood (147 rushing yards) finding much room to run.
Atlanta's two backup tackles could have major trouble against a Giants pass rush that entered Week 6 tied for the NFL lead in sacks with 17. Twelve of those sacks came in a Week 4 rout of the Eagles, including six from end Osi Umenyiora (19 tackles, 7 sacks), the NFL sack leader as Week 6 began. Fellow end Justin Tuck (25 tackles, 4.5 sacks) and outside linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka (27 tackles, 4.5 sacks) have also reached the quarterback frequently. The New York secondary exploded for three picks against the Jets last week, including two from rookie Aaron Ross (12 tackles, 2 INT) and one from veteran Sam Madison (23 tackles, 1 INT). Ross helped ice the game by intercepting a Chad Pennington pass and returning it 43 yards for his first career touchdown. Run-stopping is probably the Giants' main defensive liability at this stage, though middle linebacker Antonio Pierce (39 tackles) and strong safety Gibril Wilson (38 tackles, 2 INT) have both played well in that area for a team allowing just under 100 ground yards per contest.
Burress has been as reliable a fantasy player as any in the NFL, having scored at least one touchdown in every game he has played. Manning has obviously thrown all of those TDs, getting those who own him points, though the QB has also tossed at least one interception in every start as well. Beware. The return of Jacobs makes him worth starting, though the team seems prepared to give regular touches to Ward, making both something of a 50-50 proposition. Against the Falcons, all of the above are worth playing, and Shockey, kicker Lawrence Tynes, and the defense aren't bad plays either.
At first blush it might not seem like Atlanta has any worthy fantasy starters, but there are some Falcons to at least consider. Harrington is a quality play in a league that values completions, and he can also get you some late cheap yards if Atlanta is trying to battle back from a sizeable deficit. No. 1 Falcons receiver White has 55 or more yards in each of his past four outings, and looks like he is beginning to come into his own. Crumpler's production is down from past years, but he remains a regular target. And keep an eye on the Falcons defense, which is capable of generating turnovers and has a couple of decent pass rushers.
It might have seemed that the Giants' 12-sack performance against the Eagles a few weeks back was an aberration, but this game might prove differently. While playing against two backup tackles, Umenyiora, Tuck, Kiwanuka, and Michael Strahan should have a clear path to the not exactly fleet-footed Harrington all night. In turn, you can't expect Atlanta to move the football with anything resembling consistency, and you can also bet on the Giants forcing multiple turnovers to set up some short fields. Defensively, the Falcons might lure Manning into a couple of his own customary turnovers, but they won't be able to hold down the Giants' offensive weapons on a consistent basis. Look for New York to jump out to an early lead and keep Atlanta at arm's length thereafter.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Giants 35, Falcons 19
Re: MNF 10-15
What bettors need to know: Giants at Falcons
New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons
Falcons’ offensive line struggles
The Falcons’ hopes of recovering from a 1-4 start to the season took a big hit this week with the news that tackle Todd Weiner is out for two weeks. His absence, combined with a season-ending injury to left tackle Wayne Gandy, will force the Falcons to field a vastly inexperienced offensive line this week.
Second-year player Tyson Clabo will line up in Weiner's spot, while undrafted rookie Renardo Foster will replace Gandy. The line already features another rookie starter in left guard Justin Blalock.
Foster will line up against defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who set a franchise record with six sacks against the Eagles earlier this season and had two against former Atlanta QB Michael Vick last season.
"It is a pretty good concern," Falcons coach Bobby Petrino told the Associated Press. "We watch him (Umenyiora) on tape, and he is a great pass rusher and obviously has all kinds of production, so we certainly have to make sure we try to take care of Renardo and help him as much as we can."
The Giants have won six in a row in Atlanta, a run that stretches back to 1978.
Burress battling through injury
For a guy who hasn’t practiced in about three weeks, Plaxico Burress is doing extremely well. The Giants’ wide receiver is struggling with a sprained right ankle, but has still scored in every game this season and is tied with New England’s Randy Moss with seven touchdown receptions – the best in the NFL.
"I just have to find a way to block it out and just go out and play the way that I need to play and the way that my team expects me to go out and play," Burress told the Associated Press when asked about the injury.
"But it's one of those things that kind of sits in the back of your mind. You don't want to re-injure it or you don't want to miss a game,” he added.
The 30-year-old has managed 24 catches for 410 yards and seven touchdowns this season, all of which are team highs. Burress sat out every practice this week and his goal is simply to make it through to the Giants’ bye week on November 4.
"I can't wait for that time to come," he told the New York Daily News. "I'm like, 'If I can make it through the next three games to that bye week, two weeks of just staying off of it and not doing anything, I may actually be able to get a full week of practice in.'"
Crumpler unhappy with Petrino
After a tough 20-13 loss to Tennessee last week, veteran tight end Alge Crumpler had a lot to say – especially about the Falcons’ coaching staff. Crumpler was highly critical of the way the senior starters on the offense are treated and implied that he is not the only player unhappy with head coach Bobby Petrino.
“I’ve never been in a game where we had that many opportunities — and a miracle, with a botched punt — and we still couldn’t score,” Alge Crumpler told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week. “When we cross the 50, we’re the worst offense in the National Football League.
“We’re trying to trust them,” he added when asked how the players are responding to the coaches. “They keep telling us, ‘Trust us, trust us.’ We’ve been trying to trust them the whole time.”
Crumpler’s frustration increased the more he spoke to the media, and eventually he told them the root of his concerns.
“It’s weird. This is a young guys’ game we’re playing now. It’s been taken out of our hands. It’s just been taken out of the veterans’ hands. When we get into situations, we’re not being given opportunities.”
The Journal-Constitution reported on Sunday that an “uneasy truce” has been called between Crumpler and Petrino this week. Crumpler, who has 18 catches for 194 yards and one TD this season, is expected to start against the Giants.
The Giants have looked solid in most areas of the field on their way to a 3-2 start this season, but there is one part of the game in which they’ve struggled badly. They rank second to last in the NFL in kickoff coverage, allowing opposing offenses to start (on average) at the 32-yard line.
“It has to stop,” safety Gibril Wilson, who features regularly on special teams, told the New York Times on Friday. “The bleeding has to stop this week.”
“Oh man, every aspect of our coverage needs improvement, starting with me,” kicker Lawrence Tynes added. “I got to be more consistent with hang time and direction. And obviously, we got to run down field and make tackles. There’s really not one thing that sticks out.”
The next big test of the Giants’ kickoff coverage comes on Monday night when they face Falcons’ kickoff returner Jerious Norwood, who leads the NFC with a 30.8-yard average.
“Very fast,” All-Pro special-teams veteran David Tyree told the Times when asked about Norwood. “He’s a straight-line runner. That’s how it is week in and week out. This is the NFL, so you got to expect people to do some positive things on their side."
Re: MNF 10-15
N.Y. Giants (3-2 SU and ATS) at Atlanta (1-4 SU, 3-2 ATS)
The Giants are looking for their fourth consecutive victory both straight-up (SU) and against the spread (ATS) when they visits the Falcons in the Georgia Dome tonight.
New York rallied for a 35-24 home win over the Jets as a 3 ½-point favorite last Sunday having previously upset Philadelphia at home and Washington on the road.
Exactly one year ago these two met in Atlanta and it was all New York with a 27-14 win as three-point underdogs.
The visiting team in this series has reeled off 11 consecutive straight-up wins, but the Falcons have covered five of the last seven meetings. However, the Giants have won six in a row SU in Atlanta and they enter this contest on an 8-4 ATS run on the road dating back to the 2006 season.
New York’s defense has stepped up during its recent winning streak, allowing an average of 15 points a game after surrendering a total of 80 points while opening the season with consecutive losses. Leading the charge is defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who has seven sacks in the last two games. And tonight that defensive line goes against two new starting offensive tackles in Atlanta.
The Falcons lost 20-13 at Tennessee last week but covered as nine-point underdogs as all their points came courtesy of five Titan turnovers.
Last time the Falcons were in the Georgia Dome they scored a 26-16 win over Houston, covering as 2 ½-point favorites.
Atlanta is dealing with a bit of a QB controversy after coach Bobby Petrino pulled starter Joey Harrington last week and went with newly acquired Byron Leftwich when the Falcons were driving for a game-tying TD. Petrino has said Harrington, who has completed better than 67 percent of his throws for 1,070 yards, will be the starter.
The Giants have the better numbers on offense, averaging 24.6 points per game as compared to Atlanta’s 13.8, and in yards (332.8-291.4).
The over is 10-3-1 in New York’s last 14 on the highway and 11-4-1 in the Falcons’ last 16 home games. The under has been the play in Atlanta’s last nine against NFC foes and 11-3 in the Falcons’ last 14 overall. The over is 5-1-1 in the last seven head-to-head matchups between these two.
ATS ADVANTAGE: NONE
Re: MNF 10-15
Monday Night Football heads to the Georgia Dome for a NFC battle between the Giants (3-2 straight up, 3-2 against the spread) and Falcons (1-4 SU, 3-2 ATS). After five weeks of action the home teams have notched a 45-31 straight up and 37-35 against the spread record, but homefield advantage hasn’t meant squat in this head-to-head battle.
The visitor in this series has captured 11 consecutive contests, which includes New York’s 27-14 victory over Atlanta last season as a three-point road underdog. Quarterback Eli Manning tossed two touchdowns to go along with two interceptions, while former Giants running back Tiki Barber added 185 yards on the ground. The Falcons couldn’t do much offensively, as Michael Vick completed 14-of-27 attempts for 154 yards through air. Fast forward one year later and both Barber and Vick are gone this year for different reasons of course.
The Giants still have Eli Manning (1,076 yards, 9 TDs) behind center, while the Falcons counter with the combination of Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich, which is one of many reasons New York is listed as a 3 ½-point road favorite at Sportsbook.com for the primetime affair.
After giving up 80 points and starting 0-2, the Giants have ripped off three straight victories both SU and ATS, including last week’s 35-24 thrashing of the Jets. The defense looked sharp again, holding the Jets to 277 yards and picking off Chad Pennington three times, one returned to the house by rookie defensive back Aaron Ross. Of the Jets 24 points, 14 of them came by their defense and special teams.
Those numbers might continue to get better for the Giants’ defense this week, as they face an Atlanta offense that is averaging 13.8 points per game and 291 yards per game, both ranked near the bottom of the league.
To the Falcons’ defense, they have posted 20 and 26-point efforts at home compared to 7, 7 and 13 in their three road setbacks. Atlanta is 1-1 SU and ATS at Georgia Dome, plus the ‘over’ has gone 2-0 to boot.
Falcons’ head coach Bobby Petrino has given the nod to Harrington as the starter this week, despite his inconsistent play. Make a note that Joey has completed over 70 percent of his passes at home to go with 584 passing yards and four touchdowns, plus no interceptions. On the road, he’s accounted for three picks, two of them returned for six.
Most would expect Atlanta to face some fierce pressure in this contest from the Giants’ front-four, especially after the Falcons’ left tackle Wayne Gandy (knee) was knocked out in last week’s 20-13 loss to Tennessee.
The Falcons’ offensive line was considered raw to begin with and will now have two rookies on the front-five. New York is tied for the league leads with 17 sacks, but that number jumped after the unit produced 11 in their Week 4 victory (16-3) against the Eagles, which had a patchwork line as well.
A lot of people are labeling this contest as a ‘trap game’ for the Giants, who could be a little bit full of themselves after three straight wins. A triumph would push New York to 4-2 and right in the mix of the NFC race, especially with upcoming games at home against San Francisco (2-3) and a London venture versus Miami (0-5) before a much-needed bye.
As mentioned above the Falcons are home underdogs, which marks the third straight home puppy on MNF. Hopefully Atlanta will have better success than the two previous teams in Cincinnati and Buffalo, who both failed to pull off the upsets. The Bills did cover as 11-point underdogs in last week’s loss to Dallas (25-24) but absolutely choked at the end of the game.
An Atlanta victory would also break a four-game winning streak this year on MNF by the visitor. The road team has gone 4-2 both SU and ATS and you can make an argument that it could be 6-0 SU if you go back to Week 1 when Cincinnati skated pasted Baltimore 27-20 and the Niners edged the Cardinals 20-17.
Sticking with recent historical angles, Atlanta has won and covered three straight home games played on Monday, winning two by double-digits and once as a live ‘dog in 2005 against Philadelphia, 14-10.
It appears the public is already counting the Giants as a lock for the Week 6 finale according to the latest betting trends, but so were the Cowboys last week as well.
Kickoff is slated for 8:30 p.m. EDT, with ESPN providing national coverage.
Re: MNF 10-15
Preview: Giants at Falcons
In last season's trip to Atlanta, the New York Giants sacked Michael Vick seven times. Getting to Joey Harrington - or Byron Leftwich - should be even easier Sunday, given the current state of the Falcons' offensive line.
The Giants look to win their fourth straight game and continue their success in Atlanta when they meet the injury-plagued Falcons on Monday night.
The visiting team has won the last 11 meetings in the series, including New York's 27-14 victory last Oct. 15. Osi Umenyiora had two of the seven sacks of Vick for the Giants (3-2), winners of six in a row in Atlanta since a 23-20 loss on Oct. 1, 1978.
Two weeks after piling up 12 sacks against Philadelphia, Umenyiora and his teammates could have another big day rushing the passer. Atlanta (1-4) will be forced to use two new starting offensive tackles, with veteran left tackle Wayne Gandy done for the season after tearing an ACL in last week's 20-13 loss at Tennessee, and right tackle Todd Weiner out for two weeks after undergoing knee surgery Wednesday.
Falcons coach Bobby Petrino will use undrafted rookie Renardo Foster, a Louisville product, to replace Gandy, while second-year player Tyson Clabo will line up in Weiner's spot. The line already features one rookie starter in second-round draft pick Justin Blalock, the left guard.
Foster will be on the spot against Umenyiora, who set a franchise record with six sacks against the Eagles. Umenyiora was matched up with left tackle Winston Justice, who was making his first NFL start, in New York's 16-3 victory over Philadelphia.
"It is a pretty good concern," Petrino admitted. "We watch him (Umenyiora) on tape, and he is a great pass rusher and obviously has all kinds of production, so we certainly have to make sure we try to take care of Renardo and help him as much as we can."
The Giants, though, managed just one sack - by Umenyiora - in last week's 35-24 victory over the New York Jets.
"We need to improve," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "That is something we are analyzing right now. I thought the Jets did a nice job with their scheme, to be honest with you. I thought they did a good job with their protection and their chips and their slides and their chips and the tight end being one so I won't take anything away from them."
While both teams endured their share of controversy in training camp and in the first few weeks of the season, the Falcons are currently dealing with more issues than the Giants. Petrino has insisted that Harrington will again be the starter, although he inserted Leftwich late in the Tennessee game with Atlanta driving for a tying touchdown.
"We got in a situation last week where we were getting a lot of pass rush, he (Harrington) got hit a few times, he usually completes the throws that in the third quarter he was not, and we were just trying to get a spark when we put Byron in there," Petrino said.
In addition, four-time Pro Bowl tight end Alge Crumpler had just two catches for four yards last week and criticized Petrino after the game, questioning the play-calling and accusing the new coaching staff of favoring young players over the veterans.
"We have already had meetings and talked about it," Petrino said. "Alge and I are just fine."
New York is hoping that Plaxico Burress continues his tremendous start to the season. Burress, who has played the last three weeks despite barely practicing due to a sprained right ankle, has scored in every game and is tied with New England's Randy Moss for the NFL lead with seven touchdown receptions.
It's the highest total by a Giant through five games since Homer Jones had than many in 1967.
"I just have to find a way to block it out and just go out and play the way that I need to play and the way that my team expects me to go out and play," Burress said. "But it's one of those things that kind of sits in the back of your mind. You don't want to re-injure it or you don't want to miss a game."
The Giants were also bolstered last week by the return of Brandon Jacobs, who rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries after missing three games due to a knee sprain suffered in the season opener.
New York got 185 yards rushing from Tiki Barber in last season's win over Atlanta, and Eli Manning overcame two first-quarter interceptions by throwing two second-half touchdowns to Jeremy Shockey.
Shockey has just three catches in the last two games, but hauled in his first touchdown of the season last week.
Manning has won seven straight starts in October.