Football fans will witness NFL history being made on Sunday as the New York Giants take on the Atlanta Falcons for the first time in the post-season. The Giants will be playing at the home at MetLife Stadium, and it figures to be a showdown of the quarterbacks. Eli Manning and Matt Ryan have both had impressive seasons and are big reasons for the success of both teams. However, there are several other players including Victor Cruz of the Giants and Roddy White and Michael Turner of the Falcons that will be difference makers in this critical playoff match-up.
Manning has led the Giants on a roller coaster journey this season, getting off to a 6-2 start, then losing four in a row before winning their last three games. So far this season, he has thrown for 4,933 yards (the sixth highest total ever) and has thrown an astonishing 15 fourth quarter touchdowns. He has also had five remarkable fourth quarter comebacks, proving Manning knows the importance of finishing a game. All season, Manning has had a tremendous amount of help from one of the most notable wide receivers in the NFL right now, Victor Cruz.
Cruz is a player to keep your eye on in the Giants-Falcons match-up on Sunday. He entered the NFL in 2010, when the Giants signed him as a free agent, after he was undrafted. Unfortunately, Cruz was injured early on in the 2010 season and just made his first two career catches in week 2 of this season. After that inauspicious start, he has made his mark with the Giants by recording an impressive 82 receptions for 1,536 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Cruz has been said to be the savior of the Giant’s season after putting up 342 yards in the past two weeks, including a NFL-record-tying 99-yard reception for a touchdown against the Cowboys in a must-win game. When asked about his breakout season, Cruz commented, “God has just blessed me with some talents.” We’ll be sure to observe those talents, and hopefully a salsa dance or two on the field this weekend…
The Manning-Cruz pairing will be compared to the Ryan-White combo at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has shown his value this season after throwing for 4,177 yards and 29 touchdowns. He led Atlanta to have a 10-6 record and into the post-season, but the most important thing he can do for this football team is to come away with a win on Sunday. Since Mike Smith became the Falcons head coach in 2008, Atlanta has had four winning seasons, but the Falcons are 0-2 in the playoffs.
Ryan’s favorite wide receiver Roddy White has commented on his team’s losing streak in the playoffs stating, “It’s about time we won; it’s about time we got a W. It’s time for everyone to take their game to the next level.” White has had a great season with the Falcons, posting 100 receptions for 1,296 yards and 8 touchdowns. He is going to put everything he can into this game on Sunday and hope his teammates will as well so they can come away with their first playoff win since 2004.
Ryan and White may have a hard time connecting when faced with the Giant’s powerful pass rush, so the Falcons will have to run the ball to slow down the pass rush. New York has had an intimidating 20 interceptions, 13 fumble recoveries and 48 sacks this season, ,meaning that Falcons running back Michael Turner will be an important factor on Sunday. He has had 301 carries this season for 1,340 yards and 11 touchdowns. He knows the importance of using himself as well as other backs against the Giants on Sunday stating, “We need to get production out of the run game.” Turner has had 50 touchdowns in his career as a Falcon, which is the 3rd most in team history. The Falcons desperately need Turner to be on his A-game on Sunday in order for them to break their playoff losing streak.
Turner stated earlier this week, “The playoffs are a different animal.” Every single playoff game is the most important game of a team’s season, and no one wants to lose. This creates a lot of excitement and tension on the field and we will witness plenty of both on Sunday. Both the New York Giants and the Atlanta Falcons are determined to win, and well matched, and it figures to be a key game to pay attention to this weekend.