S.I. reverses field, but most pick Falcons over Giants

Most media outlets predict Falcons will upset the New York Giants this week, but not Sports Illustrated.

Most major media outlets predict Matt Ryan and Mike Smith will win a playoff game, but not S.I.

Last August, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King made some friends in Flowery Branch when he picked the Falcons to win the Super Bowl. (Early grade: He nailed four of the NFC’s six playoff teams: Falcons and Detroit as wildcards, and Green Bay and New Orleans as division champions, but whiffed on Philadelphia and St. Louis.)

Now, this isn’t to pick on Peter, who’s a friend of mine, but he clearly has changed his outlook on the Falcons. Sports Illustrated sent out PDFs of King’s NFL playoff preview and a Falcons preview by staff writer Jim Trotter (they’re not posted online yet). King predicts the New York Giants to win Sunday’s wildcard game over the Falcons 24-20. He also has adjusted his Super Bowl prediction from Falcons over San Diego to New Orleans over New England.

King doesn’t offer much in the way of commentary on the Falcons in the main story. (Trotter’s story recounts what led general manager Thomas Dimitroff to go after Julio Jones in the draft and touches on the failings of Matt Ryan and the secondary in the Falcons’ 2008 and 2010 playoff losses. But he doesn’t make any

0109_midprojections on the game.)

Here’s the interesting thing about King’s flip-flop. I took a walk around that inter-web thing and it seems he’s in the minority. Several media outlets actually are picking the Falcons to beat New York Sunday.

Here’s a sampling:

The Sporting News’ Clifton Brown picks the Falcons in his video preview:  Quoting: “I like the Falcons in this one. I know the Giants are getting a lot of love lately for their wins over the Cowboys and the Jets and the pass rush they have now that Osi [Umenyiora] is back. But the Falcons have done a really good job protecting Matt Ryan this season. I think they’ll be able to keep the Giants’ pass rush at bay enough for Ryan to get to those weapons he has on the outside, and Michael Turner running the football as well. I like the Falcons to win this one on the road and get Ryan his first playoff win.”

Two out of three NFL writers at Yahoo Sports pick the Falcons: Michael Silver (31-30) and Jason Cole (31-28). Les Carpenter picks the Giants (24-20).

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports picks the Falcons over the Giants 30-28. Prisco’s analysis: “The Giants righted things with two consecutive impressive victories to close out the season. They did it behind Eli Manning and their pass rush, the same formula they used to win a Super Bowl in 2007. Can they do it again? It’s possible. They have some problems, though. They don’t run the ball that well and they don’t do a great job in coverage in the secondary. I expect the Falcons to come in and challenge down the field with Julio Jones and Roddy White. That means the key will be the Falcons front. Can it keep Matt Ryan clean? If the Falcons win that battle, they win the game. It’s that simple. Ryan played well in the second half of the season as he took on more of the offense. That will continue here. Ryan and Manning both threw 29 touchdown passes this season. I expect both to have success here. The Giants were 29th in pass defense, while the Falcons were 20th. Look for a shootout if the weather is decent. Falcons take it in an upset.”

Scouts Inc., via ESPN Insider (subscription required) picks the Giants 23-20. The site breaks down nine categories, giving six to New York (quarterback, running back, offensive line, defensive line, defensive backs and coach) and three to Atlanta (wide receivers, linebackers, special teams).  For what it’s worth: The Giants finished 32nd in the NFL in rushing. So I’m still trying to figure out that “edge.”

Peter Schrager of Fox Sports, who before the season predicted the Falcons would miss the playoffs, at least is consistent: He picked them to lose to the Giants. His commentary: “The ‘Myth Of Matt Ryan’ continues on right into next year. What’s the one thing Mike Smith (as a head coach), Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez have in common (despite nonstop media love)? None of them have ever won a postseason game. They won’t win in New York this weekend, either. But, don’t worry. Someone will predict them to win the Super Bowl — like people do every year — next August.”

Don Banks, King’s co-worker at SI.com, lists the Falcons eighth in and the Giants 10th in his playoff power rankings. Banks didn’t do full-fledged predictions but he wrote of the Falcons: “As the No. 5 seed in 2008, the 11-5 Falcons went to 9-7 and No. 4 Arizona and got beat 30-24, launching the Cardinals’ Super Bowl run. Here they are again, as the No. 5 seed, playing on the road against a division champion (the 9-7 Giants) with an inferior record. Atlanta has to capitalize on this opportunity and end its playoff drought in the Mike Smith-Matt Ryan era. I think they win this one, but I’d feel better if the Falcons had beaten more than two teams that finished with a winning record (Detroit and Tennessee).”

That’s on point.

Just thought this would be a way to gauge the feelings out there. Personally, I think the Falcons win this week. But as Banks wrote, their struggles (2-4) against teams that finished with a winning record makes me wonder.

And with that, the cyber floor is yours.

By Jeff Schultz

207 comments Add your comment

The Real Falcon

January 4th, 2012
3:36 pm

It’s about playing the game.

Jcard120

January 4th, 2012
3:38 pm

FALCON FAN

January 4th, 2012
3:38 pm

FALCONS ALL THE WAY!!!

Thrashers Fan

January 4th, 2012
3:39 pm

Peter Schrager is a moron.

Mr. Phil

January 4th, 2012
3:40 pm

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 4th, 2012
3:40 pm

HA HA HA

Even Peter King is laughing at these LOSERS

HA HA HA :)

Falcons 73

January 4th, 2012
3:42 pm

I’m a passionate Falcons fan, but I just don’t see how this team will magically turn a switch and become the super aggressive team that imposes it’s will in the playoffs. Unfortunately, this is not how Mike Smith coaches and his ultra conservative philosophy is not built for post season success. This style of football leaves the Birds with VERY little margin for error and always puts them behind the 8 ball against superior competition.

The offense which is more than capable and talented, is still stuck in the “old school” mode of trying to win the time of possession and grind out the clock with the running game. This would work, if only the offensive line was built to REALLY run the football and play smash mouth football. The O-line is really more finesse than physical and that’s the reason for the drop off in running average. Dimitrof has provided Mularkey and Smith enough weapons to transition to an “explosive” offense with the likes of Jones, Rodgers, Douglass, White, Snelling, Gonzalez, and Ryan, but the overall results have been lacking. It’s sad that Mularkey doesn’t utilize more 3 and 4 wide receiver sets and open up the running lanes for Turner. We will come out on the first series against the Giants, in a two wide receiver set, Mike Cox in the back field with Turner, and try to play “smash mouth” football…we do it every game without care to what the opposing D will line up in.

On defense, we have more than enough athleticism in the secondary to play more man coverage and blitz the qb (with super quick LB’s in Weatherspoon & Nicholas), and yet we are stuck in “bend but don’t break” zones. This is a direct result of Smith’s background and unwillingness to play with extreme pressure and impose their will on the opposition.

Until the philosophy of this staff changes (or Arthur Blank mandates coaching changes), the Falcons will not progress to their stated goal of playing for a Super Bowl.

Ted M

January 4th, 2012
3:42 pm

They better win the Giants stink!

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 4th, 2012
3:43 pm

Yall loved Peter when he had a drunken prediction and now you trash him

HA HA HA LOSERS :)

tonyb

January 4th, 2012
3:43 pm

The one consistent trait of the 2011 Falcons is their wild inconsistency. What team to we see in New York? Is it the team we saw in the first half of the Carolina game, a team that looked like it couldn’t beat anyone, or the team in the second half that looked be be able to take on and beat the best the NFL has to offer.

For the Falcons to be effective, they must establish the run, and stick with it. When they do that, they are able to keep their defense off the field, and take their shots down field on play action. Trying to cover Roddy White or Julio Jones in single man coverage is quite a heavy burden for any team. And Matt Ryan has shown, at least in the regular season, that he can exploit a defense who move the safeties up in the box. If the Falcons play to their capabilities, they will beat the Giants, and be a handful for either the Packers or 49ers in round two. If they don’t, its one and done. Again.

Jcard120

January 4th, 2012
3:43 pm

I want to see more play action on first down with turner in the backfield. Gonzalez needs to run routes over the middle of the field while White and Jones press the edge. The falcons have a great chance here to get a win in New York.

mountain_jim

January 4th, 2012
3:44 pm

Hope Mularkey has some surprises and good ideas in the game plan for that pass rush.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 4th, 2012
3:47 pm

Vacation starts in 4 days and a new coach search

HA HA HA :)

Ted M

January 4th, 2012
3:47 pm

Maybe the Falcons will execute a screen pass. How long has it been?

Ted M

January 4th, 2012
3:48 pm

Jay Glazer said the Jaguars were considering Mularkey for head coach.

Big Dude

January 4th, 2012
3:49 pm

The Giants are the pundits emotional favorite. I believe the Falcons can go to the NFC finals against Detroit and then play in the Super Bowl. The opponent? It doesn’t matter….

tom

January 4th, 2012
3:50 pm

just win, plain and simple.

extremus

January 4th, 2012
3:50 pm

While I’m rooting for the Falcons and certainly think Sunday’s game against the Giants is winnable, my optimism is guarded to say the least. I can clearly see why Peter King would back off his initial Superbowl prediction given the way the Falcons have played this year; no consistency, a bad secondary with no pass rush against good teams, and a Jeckyll and Hyde offense.

Bottom line is, the Falcons have a lot of things to prove to once again be considered a legitimate Superbowl threat. And no, winning in New York, while it would be great, won’t be nearly enough. They have to beat one of the current beasts of the NFC (Packers/Saints), and THEN people will begin mentioning them again. Not before.

As a Falcons fan I hate it, but that’s the way it is. Hope these guys can finally get it together.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 4th, 2012
3:50 pm

Hope the linebackers eat their wheaties because that tight end is HUGE :)

P B Orr

January 4th, 2012
3:51 pm

Falcons have one of their best road records historically against the Giants – 10/10 overall, but 7/2 in New York, including the first-ever franchise win in the 10th game of 1966. Lately it’s three straight losses – two at home, and then in OT in New York two years ago.

Seth

January 4th, 2012
3:53 pm

I believe the Falcons can go to the NFC finals against Detroit and then play in the Super Bowl. The opponent?

—————————–

I see we have a drug user on here.

Andy

January 4th, 2012
3:53 pm

Excessive use of smiley faces is an indication of stupidity or insanity. Take your pick.

P B Orr

January 4th, 2012
3:53 pm

Peter King is sort of a flabby, chatty Cathy type gossip writer, so I don’t pay much attention to him. Vinny Iyer at SN is a much better football scribe. I fail to understand how King has so many “ins” in sports press. He’s pretty much without any detailed knowledge of any sports, and football in particular.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 4th, 2012
3:53 pm

If the Falcants go the superbowl it will be via tickets :)

Michael M.

January 4th, 2012
3:55 pm

I can’t see how anyone can pick any team to win this at the beginning of the Season when the games are not even in the books..that is just plain out crazy !

david

January 4th, 2012
3:56 pm

it looks like yout bait isnt working ‘choke” -time to look for another blog.

Winning cures all

January 4th, 2012
3:57 pm

Let them just play the games and quit over-analyzing this.
Who gets hot during playoff time is what matters.
The best team doesn’t always win.
Any given sunday.
Bye bye New Orleans
Bye bye Green Bay

Damage Inc.

January 4th, 2012
3:57 pm

MCR- do you know if MV7 bought his playoff tickets yet?

Mike

January 4th, 2012
3:57 pm

Beating an 8-8 Giants team proves nothing. I hope the fans expect and demand more. If we can’t go to Green Bay or New Orleans and compete then we have no reason to be optimistic. At 10-6 we should expect to beat an 8-8 Giants team.

SeenThis B4

January 4th, 2012
3:57 pm

I said Peter King was an idiot when he picked the falcan’ts to win the Superbowl, and now, even though he has realized his error and come to his senses, it doesn’t endear me to him. He’s just a peddler selling his wares. He’s just a pedistrian sports writer, far from elite, a lot like Matt Ryan come to think of it.

Lamar

January 4th, 2012
3:59 pm

After careful consideration,I’ve come up with the score.Atlanta Falcons 14 NY Giants 3.

Mack

January 4th, 2012
3:59 pm

I normally dont address ignorance online but I can’t resist today. Matt “Choke” Ryan you are a complete ____________. (dont want my post deleted). If I have to guess you are probably in your 30s living at home with your mama, working a PT job in a video game store, dating a 19 yr-old because anyone over the age of 20 will not give you the time of day. Get a life.

jgsbirds

January 4th, 2012
4:00 pm

i hate this matchup! but it could’ve been worse (new orleans) or it could’ve been better (dallas). we protect ryan we have a chance to win…if he’s hit early or a lot it’s a rout in the giants favor.

kind of reminds me of the bears game. we gave cutler a lot of time and he picked us a part. if we let manning stand around in the pocket and look for wr’s than we’re in for a long day. and even though their running game doesn’t rank well–it scares me a lot! jacobs and bradshaw have had big days against us in the past.

my hope is that we can win in a shootout–37-31.

go falcons.

Damage Inc.

January 4th, 2012
4:01 pm

STB4- shouldn’t you be on the Detroit blog puking your nonsense? I bet you jumped on the band wagon with the rest of the aints fans. Why is every saints/LSU fan knows nothing about football?

Michael M.

January 4th, 2012
4:01 pm

@ SeenThis B4…………Your buddy is on the other trying to find you…he said if I saw you to tell you Dinner was at 7 at his house and then he will take you out to a movie….

FalconJim

January 4th, 2012
4:02 pm

…and THAT’S why we play the games….

FalconJim

January 4th, 2012
4:03 pm

HAHAHA!!!!!!! @ Michael M.

Lamar

January 4th, 2012
4:06 pm

Super Bowl Picks STEELERS PACKERS again. Take it to the bank.

Damage Inc.

January 4th, 2012
4:07 pm

dinner AND a movie? I knew he was good at something!

Ryan's damn good and will get better

January 4th, 2012
4:14 pm

Seen this B4, What’s your obsessive hatred about for Ryan and the Falcons?
Fans enjoy talking up their teams and you seem hellbent on just knocking other teams.
You’re real retarded.
Do you have some serious penis envy going on?

SeenThis B4

January 4th, 2012
4:16 pm

@Michael: Nice jokes! But not as funny as the jokes wearing the dirty birds on their helmets.

Whopper Dawg

January 4th, 2012
4:16 pm

I think Prisco nailed it. We handle their pass rush, we win, we don’t, they win.

SeenThis B4

January 4th, 2012
4:19 pm

Damage Inc.: Maybe we know nothing about football, except that the Saints are going to win the Superbowl and LSU is going to win the BCS. By the way, how ’bout those dawgs?! Way to represent the SEC. Chokes.

Russ

January 4th, 2012
4:20 pm

I think Michael Vick and the dream team will win the Superbowl. What? You have to make the playoffs first?

Falcons 28 Giants 20.

Treeofwoe

January 4th, 2012
4:22 pm

This one is too close to call. Per the stats Falcons have the edge in rushing and in overall defense. The Giants have the better pass rush. That’s why the bookies only give the Giants a +3. Which is a field goal at home meaning a push. The trash talkers on here won’t give us any respect until we earn it and that’s to be expected. We earn it Sunday. The Giants are already talking about their next opponent. They’ll be looking past the Falcons. That’s fine. I honestly think the birds show up with beating NY as the only thing on their minds.

Ueeediot..

January 4th, 2012
4:23 pm

Russ

January 4th, 2012
4:20 pm

“I think Michael Vick and the dream team will win the Superbowl. What? You have to make the playoffs first?

Falcons 28 Giants 20.”

Next year Genius!

Try Giants 42 Falcons17

Michael M.

January 4th, 2012
4:25 pm

Not a joke he loves you and I just humiliated you and exposed you and your bud so go get ready now and you two have a good time and a nice romantic night because the Lions are going to upset your Saturday affair !

teamguy

January 4th, 2012
4:26 pm

After suffering through all the years of disappointment and poor play, I must say I am a little uncomfortable when any of the “experts” pick us to win anything. Let’s just play the game, then talk about it.

SeenThis B4

January 4th, 2012
4:26 pm

Everyone loves me Michael, women flock to me, men want to be me, children idolize me, can’t blame them.

Nerehere

January 4th, 2012
4:27 pm

The weather conditions permitting, I think the Falcons will have a field day in the air, as well as on the ground. They will test the Giants with both the running game and the passing game. Look for the explosiveness in the first quarter. Look for the Falcons to jump out to an early lead fast. If that doesn’t happen, well, there has to be a plan B. Also, look for modifications and adjustments, we hope.