NFC South: Final Word 2011 Wild Card

Final Word: Falcons at Giants

January, 6, 2012
1/06/12
1:30
PM ET
Wild-Card Final Word: Bengals-Texans | Lions-Saints | Falcons-Giants | Steelers-Broncos

Three nuggets of knowledge about Sunday’s Falcons-Giants playoff game:

[+] EnlargeTony Gonzalez
Dale Zanine/US PresswireWill star Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez finally notch his first playoff win on Sunday?
Not a hard road. The Falcons aren’t known as a great road team, especially when they have to play outdoors. But traveling to MetLife Stadium shouldn’t be as frightening as many people think. The home-field advantage isn’t as big a deal as one might consider. Since 2004, home teams are 13-15 in wild-card playoff games.

Protecting Matty Ice. It already has been established that one of the biggest matchups in this game will be Atlanta’s offensive line against New York’s pass rush. The Falcons had a tough time protecting Matt Ryan early in the season, even against base defenses. But Atlanta’s offensive line has been better of late. In his past seven games, Ryan has 12 touchdowns and no interceptions against four or fewer pass rushers. But, with Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants are one of the league’s best at generating a pass rush from their front four.

Gonzo’s unlucky streak. Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez probably will be a first-ballot selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He already holds virtually every receiving record for tight ends. But there’s one thing Gonzalez never has done. He’s gone through his entire career without winning a playoff game. Gonzalez’s 238 regular-season games without a playoff win are the most by a position player in the Super Bowl era. Gonzalez played in three playoff games with Kansas City and was with Atlanta last season when the Falcons lost to the Packers.

Final Word: Lions at Saints

January, 6, 2012
1/06/12
1:30
PM ET
Wild-Card Final Word: Bengals-Texans | Lions-Saints | Falcons-Giants | Steelers-Broncos

Three nuggets of knowledge about Saturday's Lions-Saints playoff game:

[+] EnlargeJimmy Graham
Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesSaints TE Jimmy Graham has become one of the toughest matchups for opposing defenses in the NFL.
The Graham Factor: You can make the case that New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham isn’t really a tight end. He might be more of a wide receiver in a tight end’s body and that’s going to create matchup problems for the Lions. Linebackers don’t have the speed to stay with Graham and defensive backs don’t have enough size to shut him down. Graham finished the regular season just one reception short of becoming the third tight end in history to have 100 catches in a season. Of Graham’s 11 touchdowns, nine came on passes outside the yardage numbers on the field, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That was a league high among all receivers and four more touchdowns than the next tight end.

The blitz is coming. It’s no secret that New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams likes to use the blitz. The Saints led the league by sending five or more pass-rushers on 51.1 percent of opponent dropbacks during the regular season. Detroit’s Matthew Stafford isn’t used to a lot of blitzing. Stafford was blitzed on 24.6 percent of his dropbacks, the lowest of any quarterback in the league. But Stafford struggled when he did see the blitz. He threw six interceptions in situations in which he faced five or more rushers. Only four quarterbacks threw more interceptions in those situations.

At home in the dome. Saints fans always have been a dedicated bunch. But in recent years, the crowd at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome has made it one of the NFL’s most intimidating venues. With a Saturday night game, Saints fans will have all day to get ready and that’s only going to help New Orleans on the field. The Saints went 8-0 at home in the regular season. In those games, the Saints averaged 41.1 points and 492.6 yards per game.

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