Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants preview: Week Five


Just one week ago, there was real optimism surrounding the 2014 edition of the Atlanta Falcons. However, the team suffered a rash of injures in what was a wretched on-field performance during a loss to the Minnesota Vikings, and just as the team’s record took a hit in moving to 2-2 on the season, the public perception with regard to the immediate future turned in a negative direction in a hurry. With that as the backdrop, the Falcons are on the road in back-to-back weeks, and they face off with the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon. Let’s break it down.

Opponent: New York Giants

Time/TV: 1:00 pm ET, FOX

Falcons Offense vs. Giants Defense

I still believe in the Atlanta Falcons offense. Matt Ryan has been very good this season, leading the second-best passing offense in the NFL, and even with a shaky offensive line in front of him, “number two” is capable of having a big day. It appears that Harland Gunn will be playing left guard in place of Justin Blalock when the curtain rises on Sunday, and when coupled with the losses of both Joe Hawley and Lamar Holmes, it is tough to be optimistic. Still, the 2013 offensive line was far worse than even the current unit would be (thank God for Jake Matthews), and that provides a ray of light.

On the outside, Julio Jones and Roddy White could have a field day against a questionable Giants secondary. New York is just 22nd in the league against the pass this season, allowing 254.5 yards per game through the air, and if Ryan has the time to deliver the ball, things could go in a favorable direction. Jones has obviously been excellent this season, with 447 yards and 3 touchdowns in four games, but it will be interesting to see if there is any “burst” in White, especially with the confirmed absence of Harry Douglas for the second straight game.

The running game could have tough sledding here, however, as the offensive line issues will not be helped against the 10th-ranked rushing defense in the NFL. Steven Jackson has been serviceable and Antone Smith has continued to be electric in limited action, but it would be aggressive to suggest that Atlanta has “proven” anything in the running game, and this isn’t exactly a favorable match-up.

Everything will come down to how the makeshift offensive line produces on Sunday, but even if they are simply below-average (instead of wretched), this offense can produce points.

Falcons Defense vs. Giants Offense

The year-long numbers for New York’s offense are not outstanding, but in the past two games, Eli Manning and company have come alive. The Giants have scored 75 combined points against Houston and Washington, and in fairness to Atlanta’s personnel, it certainly isn’t better than Houston’s with only a slight nod over Washington’s group.

Pass rush will, as usual, be vitally important, as only Desmond Trufant has been playing at a high level in the Falcons secondary. The loss of William Moore for 8 weeks is a big time hit at the back end of this defense, and in his stead, the duo of Ishmael and Southward will be thrust into action against a group of receivers that already includes Victor Cruz and Reuben Rande, with the potential addition of first round pick Odell Beckham Jr. for this match-up.

On the ground, Atlanta’s 28th-ranked rushing defense (woof) has a tall test, as Rashad Jennings has keyed a solid running game this season for the Giants. If there is an area of the Falcons roster that has been a wholesale disappointment when compared to preseason expectations, it is the run defense, and anything short of a limited day from Jennings and rookie RB Andre Williams could prove troublesome, especially when making the already sub-standard pass defense even more vulnerable.


I’ve said this across multiple platforms at this point, but absolutely no one likes the Atlanta Falcons in this spot. It is tough to argue against that point of view as we emerge from the effort in Minnesota, but this is still a group with significant offensive talent, and while the injures certainly do not help the cause, an above-average effort against an opponent who shouldn’t be considered “elite” could be enough to do the job on the road.

Stay tuned for post-game coverage, and a live game thread that will post on Sunday morning. In addition, be sure to follow ATL All Day for the latest on the Atlanta Falcons.