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Phil Simms joined Mike Francesa for the wildcard weekend installment of the NFL Now on WFAN. He talked about a few topics, but let's get right into the Giants.
NYG-ATL. Falcons can play a few different games. Hurry up offense of Atlanta can be used occasionally to make the opponent's defense get conservative. Falcons have a diverse running game. Matt Ryan, at 6'5" is a tall 6'5". He's a good short thrower. ATL's corners, Robinson and Grimes, are good corners who have not had good seasons here in 2011. They are pretty good tacklers, and that will be necessary to stem the YAC of Victor Cruz. The huge key that Simms saw for the Giants the last two weeks- they quit blitzing so much, allowing the DL to come up big. Simms made an unsolicited remark that we have been saying since the Draft Project- "DL Marvin Austin (rookie, IR) is going to be really really good."
UltimateNYG here. The Showtime comments were not on the web. But Simms picks the Giants. (Collinsworth takes the Gmen, Sapp takes ATL.) Here is the interesting thing about Simms on Fewell's use of less blitz in Weeks 16 and 17> with Tuck getting healthier and Osi back, it does change the chemistry and effectiveness of that unit. Tuck is NOT 100%. But even at 80% he needs to be guarded. At 60%, which is where he has been for much/most of the season, he is a shell and practically hurts the team more than he helps. (I don't particularly care for former Giants players calling out these players to get on the field, because in the case of Tuck it really didn't work, as he was doing more harm than good by being out there.)
One thing to be wary of for the Giants- let's say the Falcons go hurry up. What is the BASE defense the Giants will revert to if they can't get a call in from the sideline? Is it the Tampa 2? Or is it man with Safety coverage bracketing for the deep throw? The former loses, the latter wins.
Yesterday, the WSJ gave some comments that were helpful in understanding today's matchup. For starters, they cited the Massey-Peabody power rating numbers, but this metric is so limited at this time of year because it does not accurately reflect the nature of some teams. As an example, it gives the Giants essentially a neutral rating of 0.0. But we have shown that the Giants have been tough as dogs and weakers as favorites all season. (They were 11-4-1 if you faded the line in every game, simply taking whoever was the underdog.) Today's NYG-ATL matchup reminds me of the one "tie," where the Giants won by 3 when they were favored by 3 over the Bills. Why? Because the 4-1 Bills as dogs still had the respect of the Giants in much the same way that the ATL Falcons as dogs very much have the Giants respect. The Giants would be foolish to look past the Falcons, and I cannot imagine they wil do that.
The second item from the WSJ weekend preview notes the following about ATL: "Spread offenses really can expose the nickel defense. The pass rush also has not been a consistent strength. Offensively, the Falcons get away from their DNA of being a power-run team. WRs Jones and White have suffered from drops this season, and the OL is far better in the run game than pass blocking."
Final thoughts on this game: It is the Giants game to win or lose. Note how yesterday both home favorites got off to slow starts and came on in the second half. Earth to Kevin Gilbride, this is not what you want to do EVER in these playoffs, here or vs any good team. Get Eli into the flow of the game early so that the offense is effective and breaks up that ATL "DNA." Use the flare (I have given up on the screen) underneath to get some first downs and set up the rest of the offense. Bradshaw will be better than Hynoski, but both are fine in picking up 6-8 yards. Weatherspoon is a good LBer who will handle that assignment but it is important to split his duties instead of letting him freelance the middle of the field without that challenge. No predictions, but if Fewell plays man/press, the Giants should win this game. One big question--- what is the status of Corey Webster's hamstring? If he is hobbled, the Giants will have trouble in this game because they'll use more Tampa 2 to protect him. Webster needs to be 100% and in man coverage period.