Upcoming Free Picks

USA Today Sports

Complete Game Deconstruction

New York Giants vs. Atlanta Falcons Prediction, Preview, and Odds

Matt Ryan and the Falcons face a virtual must-win game to close out Week 7 in the NFL as they host the struggling New York Giants at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Monday night in Atlanta.

This is a past game! View all upcoming NFL games instead!

The capper to Week 7 in the NFL also serves as a de facto playoff elimination game as a pair of last-place NFC teams collide in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 

Less than two seasons removed from being NFC champions, the Falcons (2-3) survived a fourth-quarter challenge from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to record a 34-29 victory. Atlanta escaped with a win with a last-second lateral slipped through Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson’s hands at the Atlanta 5 with a chance to possibly get to the end zone on the final play.

New York’s rebuild under first-year coach Pat Shurmur has been painful to watch at times as the Giants are one of five teams in the NFL with a 1-5 record. The on-field struggles have been exacerbated by the off-field issues largely surrounding wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who is walking a fine line between exhorting his teammates to play better and throwing them under the bus with his comments.

Including the lone playoff meeting, the Giants won 24-2 in the wild-card round in 2012, the teams have split 24 all-time meetings. This is their first matchup since Atlanta won 24-20 in Week 2 of the 2015 season as Matt Ryan rallied the Falcons from a 10-point deficit in the final 12:39 and finished with 363 yards and a TD passing. Eli Manning had 292 yards and a pair of scoring tosses, and Beckham ran wild with seven catches for 146 yards, highlighted by a 67-yard scoring reception in the first half.

Line Movements and Injuries

The line for this game has been all over the place. It opened with the Falcons favored by four and quickly spiked to 5.5 points during Monday morning movements and climbed as high as six. During the week, however, there has been a gradual backtrack, moving down to 4.5 points on Thursday. By Friday, it had moved another one-half point in New York’s favor to four and held steady there for the weekend.

There was one more brief push that moved the line to 3.5 points early Monday morning, but it has since returned to four. The over/under opened at 54 points and nudged one-half point higher in the first day before dropping back Wednesday. Friday night, though, that number began to tumble, first to 53.5 and then 53 by early Sunday morning. It oscillated between 53 and 53.5 points Sunday, only to see it slip to 52.5 points overnight Monday morning. The line regained 53 during the breakfast hours, but another push appears to be taking place to get it to 52.5 by kickoff.

On the injury front, the Falcons have benefitted from the day off as wide receivers Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu are expected to play after being listed as questionable during the week. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett is also expected to return after a two-games absence, while defensive end Derrick Shelby will add depth after missing the last four contests with a groin injury.

The Giants will be without one of their starters on the offensive line as Patrick Omameh did not travel with the team due to a knee injury, and Spencer Pulley is expected to take his place at left guard. Wide receiver Jawill Davis is also out due to a concussion.

A Quick Review of the Season to Date

New York Giants Review

The Giants stagger into Atlanta looking to end a three-game skid after being roasted 34-13 at home by the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 11. Once again, running back Saquon Barkley was one of the lone bright spots for New York as the No. 2 overall pick finished one receiving yard shy of becoming the first rookie in franchise history to have 100 yards rushing and receiving in a game. Manning threw for 281 yards — but most of them came with the outcome well decided — and failed to record a TD pass for the second time this year.

Beckham was a non-factor with six catches for 44 yards and opened himself to fresh new criticisms over the weekend after walking back his apology for comments made in an ESPN interview prior to his team’s loss to Carolina. Beckham has 45 catches for 506 yards, but between Barkley’s irrepressible talent and the Giants’ offense moving away from Manning throwing the ball downfield, the tension between quarterback and receiver as well as head coach and receiver has grown on a weekly basis.

Atlanta Falcons Review

Atlanta is trying to win back-to-back games for the first time in 2018 after surviving a late rally to beat Tampa Bay and snap a three-game losing streak. Ryan threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns, finally getting rewarded with a win during a sizzling four-game stretch of football in which he has 1,432 passing yards and 12 touchdowns without an interception while completing 73.2 percent of his throws.

Amazingly, none of Ryan’s 14 TD passes has gone to Julio Jones, who has team highs of 44 catches and 707 yards after recording his third 100-yard game of the season versus Tampa Bay. Instead, rookie Calvin Ridley has emerged as Atlanta’s top scoring threat among the receivers — the first-round pick has hauled in six scoring tosses while totaling 22 catches for 349 yards.

The good news for the Falcons is they are only 2 ½ games behind the New Orleans Saints for the NFC South lead and also have posted both of their wins in divisional play. This contest also begins a four-game stretch of very winnable games as Atlanta plays three NFC East teams and the Cleveland Browns before a Thanksgiving night showdown versus the Saints in the Big Easy.


New York Giants Offense vs. Atlanta Falcons Defense

Running the Ball: Who Has the Edge?

New York Giants Rushing Offense

Little, if any, blame can be placed on Barkley for the struggles of the Giants. The No. 2 overall pick has lived up to the hype of his Penn State collegiate career, not only accounting for 83.4 percent of New York’s 525 rushing yards but also 21.7 percent of its receiving yards while ranking second to Beckham with 40 receptions.

Despite the gaudy numbers and his status as frontrunner for the Offensive Rookie of the Year, Barkley believes there are still areas for improvement going forward.

“I think I could be more efficient in the run game, continue to grow as a leader, pass pro, everything,” he told the club’s official website Tuesday. “That’s just kind of how I am. I’m very critical of all the little things and I think I can grow in every part of my game.”

Barkley is at his best going to the right behind Omameh and Chad Wheeler, averaging 9.93 yards on 30 carries, and Pulley is going to have to pick up the slack replacing Omameh. That number is partially skewed by his 50-yard scoring dash against the Eagles, but he also has ripped off eight gains of 10 or more yards in that direction.

Opponents have keyed on Barkley more in recent weeks, but he is still finding success even when they bring a fifth man to the line. Barkley has averaged 5.0 yards against five-man fronts, which he has faced 30 times in his 84 carries.

Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense

A small sample size has shown Barkley can be contained on run blitzes, but that does not play into Atlanta’s defensive scheme since it has done so just four times all season.

The Falcons are tied for 24th in rushing defense, yielding 121.7 yards per game, tied for 25th with 21 rushes allowed of 10 or more yards, and have stopped runners for losses just five times on 141 rushing attempts.

Some of Atlanta’s woes against the run can be attributed to a spate of injuries throughout the defense, and the Falcons could get some help if defensive tackle Grady Jarrett is able to return after missing the last two games with an ankle injury.

The lack of a solid run defense also plays into Atlanta’s overall struggles. The Falcons have allowed an average of 5.14 yards on 79 first down rushes, and they rank last in terms of distance on second down as opponents have needed 7.33 yards, well below the league average of 8.01.

Barkley’s pass-catching abilities out of the backfield creates a wrinkle to further exploit the Falcons. They have allowed opposing running backs to catch a league-high 53 passes, and that was after Peyton Barber had only four catches for 24 yards for Tampa Bay last week.

Given Barkley’s skill-set, it would not be surprising to see the Giants use him in delayed screen action similar to how the Steelers did with James Conner two weeks ago.

Who Has the Edge?

At the very least, Barkley’s streak of at least 100 combined yards rushing and receiving should continue in this game, and it would hardly be surprising to see him reach the century mark in rushing for the second straight game. The Giants have done the smart thing in making sure the rookie running back touches the ball around 20 times per game, and with 811 total yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns, he is a running or receiving big play waiting to happen.

The left side of the Falcons’ front four — Vic Beasley and Terrell McClain — must find ways to prevent Pulley and Wheeler from firing off the line and giving Barkley lanes to slash through, or at the very least, string out the play laterally and get help from the linebackers and secondary. That, however, is easier said than done against a Giants run offense who have proven to be the most consistent performers on the team to date.

Advantage: New York Giants

Aerial Assault: Who Has the Upper Hand?

New York Giants Passing Offense

Manning’s statistics this year embody the famous phrase “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” On the surface, everything appears fairly regular. He ranks seventh in completion percentage (68.7), 15th in yards (1,662), and his 1.7 interception rate is currently on pace to be a career low.

But Manning’s general numbers do not tell the whole story, which is one of an embattled quarterback. He is just 6 for 21 on passes thrown more than 21 yards, and 163 of his 230 attempts have either been dump-offs, screens or traveled less than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, contributing to his ranking of 23rd with 7.23 yards per attempt.

Some of that is due to a new offense, incorporating Barkley into the passing offense, and an offensive line that has not given Manning the needed time to throw the ball downfield — he has been sacked 20 times already and ranks seventh in sacks per pass plays (8.00) among QBs with at least 100 dropbacks.

But it leads to these justified criticisms: Only 24 of his 43 completions on third down have moved the chains, and the short-passing game fails to best utilize Beckham’s skills.

“We’ve done good things,” Manning insisted to New York Newsday on Wednesday. “We’re not having mistakes. We’re picking up blitzes and picking up a lot of things and making calls and getting to good plays. It’s just a matter of everybody being on the same page and playing that much better. Just be a little bit more consistent.”

Beckham, who has as many receiving touchdowns as he does passing touchdowns, has been targeted at least nine times in every game, so it is not the lack of action that has been frustrating. It is Manning’s lack of throwing deep Beckham’s way that has caused those issues. Beckham has been targeted just seven times on passes of more than 21 air yards, and he has only two receptions for 57 yards in those instances.

When Beckham recorded a career-high 1,450 yards in 15 games in 2015, Manning tried 29 passes of 21 or more yards to Beckham, completing nine for 423 yards and five TDs.

Some of those imbalances in the passing game could be reduced with the return of tight end Evan Engram, who is expected to play after missing the last three games with a knee injury. He had 10 receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown before getting hurt against Houston, and it was evident the extra rest sitting out against the Eagles benefitted him.

“Felt a lot more confident on it and was able to kind of push through and not try to nurse it as much, and try to just gain more confidence,” he told the club’s official website Tuesday. “I was able to do that today and excited about the rest of the week.”

Atlanta Falcons Passing Defense

Atlanta’s pass defense, simply put, is not good. The Falcons have already allowed four quarterbacks to top 300 yards, and their 16 passing TDs yielded are tied for the most in the league. The 169 completions and 1,835 gross yards given up are ahead of only Kansas City (171 and 2,142), and the 10 sacks recorded are tied for 26th.

Again, some of this is due to injuries, but the lack of a consistent pass rush coupled with Atlanta playing a Cover-3 scheme has allowed opposing quarterbacks to make their progressive reads and complete 70.4 percent of their passes — the fourth-worst mark among defenses.

The lack of a pass rush has exposed the lack of strong cover skills in Atlanta’s back seven. While safety Damontae Kazee has recorded an interception in three consecutive games, starting cornerbacks Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant have struggled. The two have combined to give up 43 receptions for 571 yards and five touchdowns on 71 balls thrown their way while recording 11 pass breakups.

Putting the Falcons in nickel defense situations with a third defensive back has also been good for opponents as Brian Poole has been burned on 21 of 29 passes for 257 yards and a pair of touchdowns while making four breakups.

At left cornerback, Alford will draw the primary assignment covering Beckham, and the Falcons must be cognizant of Manning’s tendency to throw short. Opponents have completed a staggering 82.9 percent (97 for 117) of their passes thrown 1-10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage for 814 yards, and the mid-range pass defense is also suspect as Atlanta has conceded 28 completions in 51 attempts between 11-20 yards for 575 yards.

Who Has the Edge?

Even with all the struggles and scrutiny surrounding Manning and the Giants’ passing game, this contest affords them a chance to thrive. In addition to a sub-par pass rush from the front four, Atlanta’s blitzes have rarely gotten home — the Falcons have only three sacks on 45 tries.

Their Cover-3 scheme means Manning will likely again bypass the deep ball for the higher-percentage plays of throwing short to Beckham and screen passes to Barkley, but one area he can expand is the mid-range game via crossing routes to Engram and No. 2 wideout Sterling Sheppard.

Atlanta’s defense is in a no-man’s zone of sorts. It can bring a linebacker closer to the line of scrimmage to help try and contain Barkley between the tackles, but it also leaves the middle of the field wide open for Manning and the passing game to exploit.

Advantage: New York Giants

Atlanta Falcons Offense vs. New York Giants Defense

Who Has the Edge in the Ground Game?

Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense

The Falcons will be making some adjustments to their ground game without Freeman, though rookie Ito Smith proved he can at least spell Tevin Coleman and has scored a touchdown in Atlanta’s last three games.

As is the case with most rookies, Smith is feast or famine. Four of his 32 rushes have gone for 10 or more yards, but he also has lost yardage on eight occasions. Some of that can be attributed to situational tendencies — Smith has gotten the bulk of his carries on first down and second and long, but one other odd quirk is his inability to get yards running right.

Smith has gotten just one yard on 12 carries trying to get turn the corner on the right, losing yards on five occasions. That is a stark contrast in the opposite direction, where he has 99 yards on 19 carries left of the center.

Thus, the pressure will be on Coleman to pick up the slack in Freeman’s absence. But he also has had issues finding holes — 13 of his 71 carries have resulted in negative yardage compared to six rushes reaching double figures.

The Falcons rank 27th with just 3.77 yards per carry, are tied for 27th with 516 rushing yards and 29th with 86.0 yards per game. The 17.5 percent of running plays that have resulted in negative yards is the worst in the league, and it is a point of concern for Falcons coach Dan Quinn.

“We know we have the right scheme, we know we have the right guys to fit into it,” Quinn said at his Monday news conference. “But we’ve got work to do. That part needs extra attention and we’re certainly going to devote the time to it.

“It carries over into four-minute opportunities. It carries over into our play-action. So there will be some games when we won’t get as many long runs, but they’re very important to get the explosive passes. So it’s part of our balance of what we do.”

New York Giants Rushing Defense

The Giants run defense can best be described as ordinary. Part of the problem is teams are racking up yards against them burning the clock while playing with a lead. New York has allowed all but one opponent to reach the century mark this season, the only time it held a team below 100 yards was in its 27-22 win over Houston.

The Giants allow an average of 4.4 yards per carry, which is slightly worse than the league mark of 4.32. They have given up 121.7 yards per game — the same mark as Atlanta as they are tied for 24th — but opponents have attempted 27.7 rushes per game against them, the ninth-highest mark in the NFL.

One noticeable area is that it has made next to no difference when the Giants bring a fifth defender to the line of scrimmage. New York has allowed 331 yards on 71 carries when using a four-man front, but 312 yards on 70 tries when a fifth man is there.

Who Has the Edge?

While there is nothing special about either the Falcons running game or the Giants run defense, Quinn nailed it when he mentioned one of the key roles is to set up the play-action passing game. Still, if the Falcons do move the ball through the air and get a lead, it will then be up to Smith and Coleman to finish the Giants off on the ground in the fourth quarter.

Based on Smith’s tendencies, play-calling may be as important as execution in that instance, as these teams are close to even in this area since neither stand out.

Advantage: Push

Who Has the Upper Hand in the Passing Attack?

Atlanta Falcons Passing Offense

This is where the party is at in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where Ryan tears opposing defenses apart with a passing attack as good as any in the league.

He is averaging 8.73 yards per attempt, the highest in his career behind only the 9.26 mark in 2016 when he won MVP honors and guided the Falcons to the Super Bowl. Ryan ranks third in passing yards (1,955), is tied for third in pass plays of 25 or more yards (16), tied for fourth in touchdown passes (14), and currently fifth in completion percentage (69.6).

Ryan also stands tall in the pocket, completing 37 of 58 passes for 491 yards and a pair of touchdowns when opponents blitz. The 58 attempts are the sixth-most among QBs when facing a blitz.

Unlike Kansas City and New England, who have balance to their respective offenses in the ground game, the focal point for Atlanta is its receivers. In Jones, Ridley, Sanu and tight end Austin Hooper, Ryan has four options on every play and two of the big-play variety in the veteran Jones and the upstart Ridley who give Sanu and Hooper space to also make an impact.

An area where Ryan and the Falcons excel in comparison to Manning and the Giants is on the deep ball. Ryan is 12 for 28 for 453 yards on passes traveling 21 or more yards, resulting in nine completions of 25 or more yards.

Additionally, the Falcons do not make it a point to use Freeman, Smith and Coleman in the pass attack; they are there as safety valves — evidenced by the fact Ryan has averaged just 3.84 yards per attempt on 42 passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage.

Instead, Atlanta’s offense is forward-based. Ryan has completed 82.1 percent of his passes between 1-10 yards for 834 yards and six scores, and 60.4 percent of his throws 11-20 yards for 526 yards and four TDs. The Falcons rank second in the NFL in air passing yards with 1,132, trailing only Tampa Bay (1,265).

Hooper is the latecomer to the Falcons’ passing party, but his contributions have been significant. He has 18 receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown in the last two games, and Ryan has targeted the tight end 21 times in those contests after doing so just 15 times combined in the first four games.

“It’s impressive for the guys that don’t get all of the same number of snaps but when they get their chances, make plays,” Ryan told the Falcons’ official website. “It’s really cool to see but that’s what makes good football teams.”

New York Giants Passing Defense

After doing a solid job in containing Blake Bortles and Dak Prescott the first two games of the season, the Giants have struggled against the upper-tier quarterbacks in the league the last four contests, a key reason they have given up 122 points in that span.

New York has allowed 200 or more passing yards in four straight games, and Carson Wentz picked it apart for 278 yards and three touchdowns in Week 6. He went 10 for 10 for 155 yards and two TDs on third down through the first three quarters as Philadelphia racked up 15 first downs via the passing game.

Getting off the field has been the dominant theme for the defense this week — the Giants are 14th overall in holding opponents to 39.0 percent (30 for 77) but 26th on 3rd down between 6-9 yards at 46.4 percent (13 for 28).

Atlanta is second in the league in third down conversions at 49.4 percent (39 for 79), including a league-best 47.4 percent on 3rd and 6 or longer (18 for 38), and Jones is tied for the NFL lead with 13 receptions for first down on third-down catches.

“Their receivers are able to catch the ball down field, that’s why they’re so good,” said safety Landon Collins. “That’s the biggest thing we have to harp on, is getting off the field on third-down. That’s what we didn’t do last week, and that’s what we’ve got to work on.

Like the Falcons, the Giants pass rush is virtually non-existent — they have seven sacks for the season and recorded more than one in a game just once. Teams have taken advantage by getting chunk plays in the passing game — New York has allowed 25 completions of 20 or more yards, the fifth-highest total in the league.

Teams also have been picking on right cornerback Janoris Jankins, who has given up 24 receptions for 329 yards and three touchdowns against five breakups on 37 passes thrown his way. That has negated the solid work Eli Apple has done on the other side, where he has conceded just 12 completions on 25 attempts for 182 yards and also has broken up five passes in four games.

Blitzing opposing quarterbacks has not helped New York, as the 454 yards on such plays is the 10th-highest total in the league. Additonally, the Giants have gotten just two of their seven sacks while blitzing, ahead of only the Oakland Raiders.

Who Has the Edge?

While the Giants have relatively decent statistics when it comes to pass defense, their inability to generate a consistent pass rush is going to be a very large problem considering how the Falcons like to use their receivers offensively. The longer Ryan can sit in the pocket, the more pressure it puts on the Giants defensive backs to cover Atlanta’s receivers, and Jones and Ridley are just too good to be given anywhere from three to five seconds to run their routes.

Additionally, both of them are relatively large targets — more so Jones at 6-foot-3 than the 6-foot-1 Ridley — which means Apple and Jenkins might not be able to jam them at the line of scrimmage on a consistent basis. Atlanta’s three-wide sets also means extended playing time for nickel back B.W. Webb, who was a capable understudy when Apple was sidelined for two games.

This is the second straight week the Giants are facing a capable tight end, and Zach Ertz was able to find creases to get open and finished with seven receptions for 45 yards and a score for the Eagles in Week 6. Ray-Ray Armstrong and Alec Ogletree have struggled in pass coverage at times, adding another layer of pressure on the secondary for this game given the increased usage of Hooper in recent weeks for Atlanta.

Advantage: Atlanta Falcons

Special Teams, Coaching, & Intangibles

Special Teams

New York Giants

Second-year Giants kicker Aldrick Rosas has done just about everything asked of him, making all eight of his extra point attempts and nailing all but one of his 14 field goal tries. That lone miss was a 52-yarder right before halftime against the Eagles, but the Giants were already down 24-6 at that point, and there was no momentum lost.

On kickoffs, Rosas has gotten 19 touchbacks on his 28 kickoffs, and the 17.1 return yards per attempt on the nine that have been run back is third-lowest in the NFL.

Punter Riley Dixon has also done his part, ranking tied for third with 16 efforts of 50 or more yards. He also ranks ninth with an average hang time of 4.48 seconds, but his ratio of touchbacks to punts inside the 20 is 1:2, dropping his net average to 41.8 yards compared to his gross mark of 48.5 that ranks fourth.

In the return game, Beckham’s desire to contribute on punts has been hit-and-miss at best, evidenced by the debacle against Carolina that resulted in a touchdown. He has totaled 18 yards on seven returns, with 15 of them coming on one runback.

New York is averaging a league-worst 2.8 yards on punt returns but is 12th on kickoffs at 24.1 yards. The Giants, though, have yet to have a kickoff return of longer than 32 yards.

Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta’s win over Tampa Bay came with a high cost as kicker Matt Bryant strained his right hamstring on the 57-yarder he made with 1:10 to play to make it a five-point game. The 43-year-old has been clutch all season, making all nine of his field goal attempts — three of them from 50 yards or longer — while making 16 of 17 extra points.

The Falcons signed Giorgio Tavecchio, who lost a bid to unseat Bryant in the preseason. The Italian-born kicker hit 16 of 21 field goals for the Raiders last season and also had touchbacks on 76.2 percent of his 63 kickoffs.

Matt Bosher has done a solid job pinning opponents deep, putting seven of his 23 punts inside the 20 while conceding one touchback. Atlanta’s punt coverage team, though, has had some issues, yielding 6.8 yards on 12 returns as Bosher’s 36.7 net average ranks 29th.

Marvin Hall has been a solid kickoff returner when he gets the chance, averaging 25.8 yards on nine runbacks with a long of 53 yards. Justin Hardy has averaged 4.8 yards on nine returns while calling for fair catches on four occasions.

Who Has the Edge?

This area will be one to watch, especially when the Falcons get inside the opposing 35-yard line. Quinn does have some familiarity with Tavecchio from the preseason, noting Tuesday that “he was somebody who we definitely had on our radar.”

Otherwise, the other parts of special teams for these two clubs seem to wash out, though Beckham will be someone to keep an eye on as he continues to at least try to make an impact in areas beyond deep passes.

Advantage: New York Giants


New York Giants

One gets the sense Shurmur is losing the war when it comes to keeping the Giants on the same page. The players can claim the locker room is united, the receivers can claim they are all be behind Manning, but when the team owner has to make a public statement in Week 6, something is rotten in Denmark.

Shurmur looked agitated at points at Manning’s inability to look beyond the check-down receiver against the Eagles, and against a defense as porous as the Falcons, there is almost an urgency for Manning to at least test Atlanta’s Cover-3 and see what is available downfield. As someone brought in to improve the offense, this game could go a long way in determining just how much faith Shurmur has in Manning, and in turn how much faith the receivers have in their quarterback.

Atlanta Falcons

Quinn has addressed the short-term issue with bringing in Tavecchio, solving the longer-term issue of his defense continues to flummox him.

The injuries to safeties Ricardo Neal, Keanu Allen and linebacker Deion Jones would cripple any defense, and it makes sense for the Falcons that their best defense is a better offense. That said, the defense must figure out a way to keep Barkley in front of them because if he gets beyond that front four, it is going to be a long night in which 30 points might not be enough for a victory.

Quinn made the right call in not holding out Ridley and Sanu ahead of the bye week, but the injuries to the defense have already fostered a “next man up” mentality. Play-calling on the offensive side with all his wide receivers at his disposal is what will turn this match.

Who Has the Edge?

Both coaches have to rally the troops to a degree, but it will be much easier on the Falcons side since they are coming off a win and have one of the league’s best quarterbacks in Ryan, so even personnel changes at the skill positions offensively will not bother him much.

The quicker Shurmur puts out this week’s fire after Mara’s comments, the better. The Giants need to be a team with fewer distractions on a weekly basis. The extra time off should have helped them re-focus on the task at hand and recharge their batteries. Instead, Shurmur again is taking time to get everyone pulling in the same direction. At 1-5, that should have been done a while ago.

Advantage: Atlanta Falcons


New York Giants

The Giants are a team desperate for a victory but appear to lack the desperation to grab it. They looked absolutely wiped out against the Eagles, and there is only so much good the extra time off from playing Thursday night will do a team.

Playing the Falcons affords the Giants offense a chance to put up or shut up. Manning should want to be aggressive against this defense, and he has the nous to balance those moments with unleashing Barkley on them. If the rookie running back gets to the second level on the Falcons — and he should — good things will happen.

New York’s defense has gotten a free ride to a degree because of the maelstrom Beckham created. Against a team like the Falcons, it cannot hide given how well Ryan is playing. And if New York does put points on the board and the defense does not respond, this season could get out of hand very quickly.

Atlanta Falcons

The chance to get to the bye week one game under .500 with three conference wins in their pocket is plenty of motivation for the Falcons, along with getting personnel healthy. Atlanta should see this as a chance to kick an opponent while its down, and it should have plenty of confidence it can get anything it wants offensively with Ryan under center.

This is also the first home game on Monday Night for the Falcons since Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened last year, and there will be motivation to shine in prime time. There is far more at stake for the Falcons than the Giants in this game, and look for Atlanta to use that to its advantage.

Who Has the Edge?

With the Falcons playing for something as opposed to the Giants playing to simply find themselves, the advantage goes to the home team in this instance. New York is a fragile team right now, and if Ryan and Atlanta start quickly, it may not take too much to finish off the Giants.

Advantage: Atlanta Falcons

Final Outlook – Time to place those bets!

The current over/under of 54.5 points is a challenging mark to decide on, and Bryant being sidelined for this game only adds to the back and forth on which side to take on that pick.

Thus, taking the Falcons and laying the six points is the better option at the moment. Even if Atlanta holds out Ridley and Sanu, Ryan still has enough in Jones and Hooper to consistently move the ball down the field, and New York’s defense does not make enough big plays to help its offense in the form of turnovers to create short fields.

Stopping Barkley will be a huge challenge for the Falcons, and whether he causes them to deviate from their Cover-3 will be something to watch. If the Falcons can do something big early on either side of the ball, that can turn into a feeding frenzy that triggers an easy victory given how fragile the Giants appear to be at the moment.

New York Giants 24, Atlanta Falcons 38
Updated: please continue below for details and new prediction.

Updated on Oct 22 at 1:00pm EDT

With both the spread and the over/under trending down — the line from six to four in favor of the Falcons, and the over/under from 54.5 to 52.5 points, it makes one pick easier while the other is still somewhat challenging.

The easier pick is the Falcons and laying the points. With Ridley and Sanu expected to play, Atlanta’s offense is at full strength and will stress a Giants defense that has only one good cornerback (Apple) and one serviceable one (Jenkins). How Ryan utilizes Sanu and Hooper over the middle will go a long way in preventing New York from rolling its secondary against either Jones or Ridley, though it would be towards Jones if it chooses to do so.

Also in Atlanta’s favor offensively is the Giants do not force many turnovers. They have created just five overall, with four coming via interceptions. With a quarterback as hot as Ryan is coupled with a lack of a pass rush, the Falcons should be able to comfortably stay ahead of the Giants throughout this contest.

While a bad team can sometimes rise up and pull off an upset victory, a bad team that is also dysfunctional has a far more difficult time doing so. And the Giants are a dysfunctional team. When the local paper is touting the undrafted rookie kick returner as a potential game-changer in his NFL debut, things are bad.

The over/under coming down to 52.5 points from 54.5 is manna for those who are confident in the Falcons getting things done offensively. But the expectation the Giants will be successful enough to score at least 20 points against a Falcons defense that has given up 24 or more in its last five games is what makes the over the pick here.

Stopping Barkley — who has scored five of his six touchdowns from 15 yards or longer — will be a huge challenge for the Falcons, and whether he causes them to deviate from their Cover-3 will be something to watch. If the Falcons can do something big early on either side of the ball, that can turn into a feeding frenzy that triggers an easy victory given how fragile the Giants appear to be at the moment.

New York Giants 24, Atlanta Falcons 38

Did you find this analysis helpful? Show your support for our hardwork by sharing it on your favorite social network!

Chris Altruda (@AlTruda73)

A 1994 graduate of Marquette University when they were known as the Warriors and Brooklyn native, Chris Altruda is a freelance sportswriter based in Chicago. He has worked at three major U.S. wire services and also has prior experience in sports handicapping and daily fantasy roster building. Now that the Cubs have won a World Series, he holds out hope the Jets will win a Super Bowl before he dies. Can be followed on Twitter at @AlTruda73.


Forgot Password?
Forgot your password? Enter your email and we'll send you a reset token:

Return to login
Enter the token from your email and a new password. Don't forget to check your spam folder if you didn't get the email.

Upcoming Free Picks

Bank the Bet Podcast
Sunday, Jan 20
#311 Los Angeles Rams 56.5
#312 New Orleans Saints -3
View Pick
#313 New England Patriots 58
#314 Kansas City Chiefs -3.5
View Pick
#501 Charlotte Hornets 219
#502 Indiana Pacers -7.5
View Pick
#503 Phoenix Suns 227.5
#504 Minnesota Timberwolves -10.5
View Pick
#505 Los Angeles Clippers
#506 San Antonio Spurs
View Pick
#817 Florida State -6
#818 Boston College 146
View Pick
#819 Providence
#820 Marquette
View Pick
#821 Illinois 156.5
#822 Iowa -9
View Pick
#823 Duquesne -3
#824 George Washington 136
View Pick
#825 Missouri State 150.5
#826 Drake -5
View Pick
#827 Bradley 123
#828 Southern Illinois -8
View Pick
#829 Colorado 147
#830 Utah -3
View Pick
#1 Washington -160
#2 Chicago 6.5
View Pick
#3 Anaheim
#4 N.Y. Islanders
View Pick