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    09/07/2011 10:47 PM
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NFL Wild Card Sunday Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants, Start Time and Free Pick

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 22:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants talks with Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons after their game on November 22, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants defeated the Falcons 34-31 in overtime.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The second day of the NFL Playoffs gets underway on Sunday when the Atlanta Falcons visit the NY Giants.The game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. kickoff and will be televised nationally on Fox. Currently the odds have the New York Giants favored by 3 points in this contest, with the total sitting at 47.5 points. Two teams that finished the season 3-1 square off at Met Life Stadium when the Giants host the Falcons in an NFC Wild Card game. Atlanta hasn’t won a playoff game since the 2004 season and New York hasn’t won a home game in the postseason since the 2000 NFC Championship. 

Free Analysis: The NFC East-champion Giants needed the final regular season game to decide their playoff fate, but earned the conference's fourth seed after handing the division-rival Dallas Cowboys a 31-14 whooping at MetLife Stadium this past Sunday. The Giants ended a two-year playoff drought with the win over Dallas and now will be seeking their first victory in a playoff game since sending New England packing in Super Bowl XLII following a 10-6 record in the 2007 regular season. The Giants already won one must-win game, and they’re looking to finally get some postseason momentum going at home. QB Eli Manning has been awful in two career home playoff starts (0 TD, 5 INT, 31.8 passer rating). The Giants failed to score a touchdown and were outscored a combined 46-11 in these defeats. Manning had a good year as he put up 4933 yards and 29 TD's but he threw too many INT's (16) and while he struggled in December (76.5 passer rating with 6 TD's and 6 INT's) he did come up big when he needed to with a tremendous season finale against Dallas, completing 24-of-33 passes for 346 yards, 3 TD and 0 INT. Manning has uncovered a gem in big-play WR Victor Cruz, who hauled in nine scoring passes for a team-record 1,536 yards. Cruz capped the season by putting up 164 and 178 yards in the last two games, including TD receptions of 99 and 74 yards. Its a good think that the passing game has clicked so well as the Giant running game has struggled this year, due mainly to injuries. The Giant running game is last in the league with 89.2 rushing yards per game and goes up against an Atlanta defense ranked sixth against the run (97.0 ypg). Bradshaw (659 rushing yards, 9 TD) is now back at full strength, however, and was one of the pieces that helped the Giants clinch the NFC East against the Cowboys. Overall the Giants have put up 385.1 ypg (8th) and 24.6 ppg.(9th). The defense has been a problem despite the fact that Pro-Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul finished fourth in the NFL with 16 1/2 sacks this season and joined Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan as the only Giants players to post at least 16 sacks in one year. The Giants finished 29th vs the pass (255.1 ypg) and 27th in total defense (376.4 ypg) this year, while allowing 25 ppg. For the Falcons they sealed up the fifth seed in this year's playoffs with last Sunday's 45-24 win over Tampa Bay, but just couldn't keep up with the New Orleans Saints in its attempt to seize a second NFC South championship in as many years. The Falcons notched a playoff spot in back-to-back campaigns for the first time in franchise history, but have yet to win a postseason matchup under the current regime. QB Matt Ryan has played poorly in his two postseason games (71.2 passer rating, 3 TD, 4 INT), both SU and ATS losses, but enters off his best season, throwing 29 touchdown passes to tie the Giants' Eli Manning for the league's sixth-highest total. That figure, along with Ryan's 4,177 yards and 92.2 passer rating are career bests, with receivers Roddy White and rookie Julio Jones combining for 2,252 yards and 16 TDs. The Falcons' defense was the main reason for a playoff collapse against a Packers team that racked up 442 yards of offense in last January's rout, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers finishing with three touchdown passes and 366 yards through the air. Manning will try to exploit Atlanta's 20th-rated pass defense and has been playing very well this season. Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder should expect New York to unleash a pass attack, but that will be hard to do if Manning is facing constant heat up front. Veteran end John Abraham (35 tackles, 9.5 sacks) is the best candidate to do just that and finished the regular season with a flourish, recording 4 1/2 sacks in the last three weeks I do look for Atlanta to put the heat on him here. Coughlin owns a 5-2 career record against the Falcons, having gone 3-1 during his tenure with New York and 2-1 while at the helm of the Jacksonville Jaguars from 1995-2002. Smith lost his only lifetime matchup against both the Giants and Coughlin as a head coach with his team's 2009 defeat in New Jersey.

Free Pick: Gonna look to the Falcons in this one. Giants QB Manning did have a good year and a great season finale vs Dallas, but he still had a bad December (76.5 passer rating) and he is 0-2 at home in the post season (0 TD, 5 INT, 31.8 passer rating). Matt Ryan, on the other hand,  has been on fire since the start of November, completing 62% of his passes for 2,494 yards (277 YPG), 20 TD and just 4 INT.Both teams have excellent wide receivers, but Atlanta (115 rush YPG) has a decisive edge over New York (89 rush YPG, last in NFL) in the running game. Falcons RB Michael Turner, who has been battling a groin injury, finally looks healthy and is ready to take on a Giants defense that is 19th vs the ruin (121.2 ypg). With turner healthy it makes the Falcons two-dimensional, while the Giants lack of a run game makes them very predictable. Despite this game being played in NY, Atlanta brings the more balanced offense and the better defense into this one and they should walk out with the outright win. Let's also note that Tom Coughlin is 5-16 ATS in home games after allowing 14 points or less last game as the coach of Giants. 

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