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
projections 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