FLOWERY BRANCH — If the playoffs started today, the Falcons would be the top seed in the NFC.
That doesn’t sit well with NBC analyst Rodney Harrison.
During halftime of Sunday’s night game, host Dan Patrick asked him to pick the best team in the NFC. Harrison swung a haymaker at the Falcons.
“Atlanta is the No. 1 seed, but no one is afraid to play Atlanta,” Harrison said. “To me, the team to beat in the NFC is the New York Giants.”
And guess who’s coming to town Sunday?
“I don’t even care about the record,” Harrison said. “When the Giants (8-5) get into the playoffs, they have the experience and that pass rush. Eli (Manning) in the fourth quarter, that’s the team to beat.”
The Falcons, coming off Sunday’s discouraging 30-20 loss at Carolina, saw Harrison’s comments.
“It’s not disrespectful,” defensive end John Abraham said. “How we played last week, they should say stuff like that. When we put stuff like that out there on tape, they should say stuff like that.”
Safety Thomas DeCoud wasn’t bothered by the comment, even if it was dismissive of the NFC South champs.
“The man is entitled to his opinion,” DeCoud said. “He can say whatever he wants. He gets paid to say whatever he wants. We can’t be too tuned into that type of stuff because after a while, that type of stuff becomes a distraction.”
The Falcons watched the film of the Carolina game on Monday and said they were ready to move on from the embarrassing defeat to a team that had won just three games before Sunday. They are preparing for what could be a playoff preview when they face the Giants at the Georgia Dome.
“I think we’ll be OK,” Abraham said. “It was a butt-whipping. Call it what it is. They did a good job. They played a great game. We didn’t come to play like we’re supposed to come. So we are getting ready for the Giants right now. We have to get over the hump.”
Carolina nearly beat the Falcons earlier this season and were furious after losing in the final minute 30-28 on Sept. 30. The Panthers took verbal shots at the Falcons all last week and said they were the better team. They then backed it all up, jumping out to a 23-0 lead and then holding on for the victory.
“You hate to admit it,” running back Michael Turner said. “But when guys are talking smack and they come out with the W, it’s kind of like a double-whammy.”
The Falcons have tried to put the day behind them.
“We can’t keep worrying about things we can’t change,” Abraham said. “It’s in the record books. We’ll let that go. We can have something to do with the future right now, so we need to worry about that right now.”
The last time they met, the Falcons were eliminated from the playoffs by the Giants last season in the wild-card round. New York held a 7-2 halftime lead before pulling away to a 24-2 victory.
The Giants throttled the Saints 52-27 on Sunday.
Falcons coach Mike Smith started laying the groundwork for a turnaround, one of the team’s biggest challenges of the season.
“The message is real simple,” Smith said. “We didn’t play our best. We didn’t play up to our capabilities and up to our standard. We’ve got to get back in here, to the office, to get the corrections, and come out here on Wednesday and prepare for the New York Giants.”
Under Smith, the Falcons have never dropped back-to-back games with Ryan as the starting quarterback and one of the games was at home.
The Falcons have dropped back-to-back games with Ryan at the controls twice, but all of those games were on the road.
In 2009, Dallas beat them 37-21 on Oct. 25 at Cowboys Stadium followed by a 35-27 loss at New Orleans on Nov. 2. They also lost at Carolina 28-19 on Nov. 15 and at the New York Giants 34-31 in overtime on Nov. 22.
Overall, the Falcons have not dropped back-to-back games since Games 12 and 13 of the 2009 season. With Ryan out with a turf toe injury, they lost to Philadelphia (Dec. 6, 2009) and New Orleans (Dec. 13, 2009) with Chris Redman at the controls.
“(The Giants) are playing very good football right now,” Smith said. “The last two weeks, they’ve played outstanding football and it’s going to be a big challenge. They’re right in the middle of the playoff hunt.”
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