Let’s start with this: I’m thoroughly convinced that even if the Falcons go out today and beat the New York Giants by two touchdowns, there is still going to be a segment of the fan base — a large segment — that says, “Just wait until the playoffs.”
And that’s fine. Because as we’ve discussed ad nauseam this season, the Falcons will be judged by how they do in the postseason, not the regular season, which again is going well (11-2). But a strong performance against the Giants would at least ease some of the concerns moving forward.
The Falcons, coming off their worst game of the season at Carolina (30-20 loss), lost to New York 24-2 in the last year’s playoffs. The Giants had a record of only 7-7 with two games left in the season but won their last two over the Jets and Dallas to win the NFC East and then beat four teams with better records than them — the Falcons (10-6), Green Bay (15-1), San Francisco (13-3) and New England (13-3) to win their second Super Bowl in five years.
If the Falcons’ offense scores anything today, it would put them ahead of the playoff loss, when the team’s only points came on a safety. They need to figure out a way to have some success against New York’s front four because there’s a reasonable chance these two teams will meet again in a few weeks.
A few important items before I open the cyber-venting lines:
• The Falcons will be without safety William Moore (hamstring). Wide receiver Roddy White (knee) did not practice all week but will start. Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineux (ribs) and wide receiver Harry Douglas (ribs), who were limited in practice, are active. Cornerback Asante Samuel (shoulder), out most of the last two weeks, will start.
• The Giants are missing three regulars — running back Ahmad Bradshaw (knee), cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) and safety Kenny Phillips (knee).
• The scenarios for the Falcons clinching a bye and home field in the playoffs are similar to a week ago. They can clinch a bye with: a win and a Green Bay loss or tie; a win and a San Francisco loss; or a tie and a Green Bay loss. They can clinch the No. 1 seed with a win and a Green Bay loss or tie and a San Francisco loss. (Green Bay plays at Chicago and San Francisco plays at New England.)
Need something to read from during the week:
– Here’s my column on judgement time for the Falcons and Mike Smith.
– Here’s Darryl Ledbetter’s piece on Asante Samuel’s history against Eli Manning.
– Here’s Michael Cunningham’s story on whether the Falcons felt too satisfied before their loss to Carolina.
– Here’s Ledbetter again on the “voices” in Sean Weatherspoon’s head.
OK, that’s it for now. The floor is yours.
Let’s hear your thoughts on the game.
By Jeff Schultz