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Friday, December 14, 2012
Next-Level Preview: Giants at Falcons

By Michael Bonzagni, Evan Kaplan and Kimberly Meyer | ESPN Stats & Information

The Giants head to Atlanta on Sunday to face the 11-2 Falcons in a matchup of two of the NFC’s top teams.

The teams met in the NFC Wild Card playoffs last season, with New York prevailing, 24-2.

The Giants were able to disrupt Matt Ryan in that game, sending four or fewer pass rushers on 37 of his 44 dropbacks and either sacking or putting him under duress 10 times. Ryan completed 58.8 percent of his passes against such pressure, but the Giants pass rush forced him to keep his throws short, as he averaged 5.2 yards per attempt.

Eli Manning threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns in that game, and completed 71.9 percent of his passes. Manning was effective with the short passing game, averaging 6.6 air yards per attempt, his lowest rate of the season. But the Giants receivers were able to capitalize on those throws with 158 yards after the catch, their most in any playoff game during last year’s Super Bowl run. Here are some areas to keep an eye on in the teams’ Week 15 matchup:



• The Giants are relying more on their four-man pass rush over the last six games, which has yielded positive results for their defense. When sending four or fewer pass rushers during their last six games, the Giants have allowed a Total QBR of 47.5, considerably lower than the 83.2 they allowed in their first seven games.

They are sending standard pressure on 83.0 percent of dropbacks over the last six games, including a season-high 90.9 percent against the Redskins in Week 13. In last year’s playoff game the Giants sent four or fewer pass rushers on 83.7 percent of Matt Ryan’s dropbacks, and both of their sacks came when sending standard pressure.

• One of the biggest differences between Manning and Ryan in 2012 has been their success with play-action passing. Ryan has excelled in such situations, garnering the second-highest completion percentage among qualified quarterbacks. Manning, on the other hand, has the fifth-lowest percentage.

Ryan is averaging a touchdown every 14.8 attempts while Manning is averaging one every 20.3 attempts.



• Manning’s struggles on play-action passing may continue on Sunday. The Falcons’ defense has only allowed two touchdowns all year against play-action, tied for fewest in the league. They have also allowed the second-fewest 30+ yard plays (2) and the fourth-lowest QBR in the league (39.8).

David Wilson made a major impact in the run game against the Saints, rushing for 100 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries.

However, all of his rushes came on first and second downs. Wilson was on the field for only one third down -- a pass play with 49 seconds left in the first quarter. During the third down, Manning was forced to throw the ball away due to pressure.

For Wilson to reach his full potential as a feature back, he must get better in pass protection so he can contribute on every down.

• Wilson not only contributed to the rushing game, but he was also a huge part of a kick return and kickoff unit that was responsible for 3.04 Expected Points Added, the Giants’ highest contribution by the kickoff team since Week 2 of 2010. Wilson leads the league in kick return yards (1,321) and already has more return yards than any other Giant in the last 12 seasons.