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MNF Preview - Giants vs Falcons

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NFL Betting - Week 6

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NFL Preview - N.Y. Giants (3-2) at Atlanta (1-4)

by: MySportsbook.com

(My Sportsbook) - It isn't quite the matchup that the NFL envisioned when it assigned a coveted primetime slot to the Week 6 Falcons/Giants clash, but Monday night's tilt at the Georgia Dome carries with it some intrigue nonetheless.

Most of the storylines will revolve around the streaking Giants, who can move to 4-2 and remain within the thick of the NFC East race with a win on Monday. Many had left Tom Coughlin's team for dead when it looked less-than-stellar and incurred numerous injuries in September losses to the Cowboys and Packers, but the G-Men have rebounded nicely. Consecutive victories over the Redskins (24-17), Eagles (16-3) and Jets (35-24) have raised hopes about New York's playoff prospects, and have kept the heat off of the perpetually embattled Coughlin, at least for the time being.

It is the much-publicized struggles of the Falcons, both on and off the field, that have stripped this matchup of at least some of its luster. With quarterback Michael Vick awaiting sentencing stemming from federal dogfighting charges, Atlanta has limped to a 1-4 start in head coach Bobby Petrino's first season on the job.

The once-prolific Falcons offense has been mostly stagnant thus far, including in last week's 20-13 loss at Tennessee. Atlanta could not benefit from five Titans turnovers in that game, and Petrino benched starting quarterback Joey Harrington late in favor of former Jaguar Byron Leftwich.

The Falcons did win the last time they were at home, however, a 26-16 win over the Texans in Week 4.

SERIES HISTORY

The Falcons lead the all-time series with the Giants, 10-8, but were 27-14 losers when the teams met at the Georgia Dome in Week 6 of last season. Prior to that game, Atlanta had won three in a row in the series, including a 14-10 road victory in 2004. The Giants have won in each of their last six trips to Atlanta, and the Falcons haven't won a home game in the series since 1978. The road team has won the last 11 installments of the series dating back to a 24-3 New York win at the Meadowlands in 1979.

Coughlin is 3-1 in his career against the Falcons, including 1-0 since coming to New York in 2004. Atlanta's Petrino, who was a member of Coughlin's staff in Jacksonville from 1999 through 2001, will be meeting his former boss and the Giants for the first time as a head coach.

WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL

Nothing has worked better for the Giants through their first five games than the connection between quarterback Eli Manning (1076 passing yards, 9 TD, 6 INT) and wide receiver Plaxico Burress (24 receptions, 7 TD). The duo has hooked up for seven touchdown passes thus far, placing Burress in a tie for the NFL lead in TDs, along with New England's Randy Moss, as Week 6 began. Burress continues to battle nagging ankle problems, but has yet to miss a game. Manning has fought through a shoulder problem to engineer three consecutive wins, though his 82.7 passer rating leaves something to be desired. Tight end Jeremy Shockey (18 receptions, 1 TD) and No. 2 receiver Amani Toomer (19 receptions) have also been frequent Manning targets. The running game received a boost last week, when Brandon Jacobs (126 rushing yards, 1 TD) returned from a three-game absence due to a knee injury to post his first 100-yard game as a pro. Derrick Ward (409 rushing yards, 20 receptions, 2 TD), who had filled in capably during Jacobs' time on the sideline, continued to make his presence felt with 13 carries for 56 yards and a score against the Jets.

If the Falcons defense can force turnovers against the Giants as it did versus Tennessee, Atlanta can at least hope to enter the fourth quarter with a chance. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall (9 tackles, 1 INT) was responsible for the biggest play of the day, a fumble return that he took 56 yards to the house in the first quarter for the team's only touchdown. Linebackers Demorrio Williams (17 tackles, 1 INT), Michael Boley (46 tackles, 1 INT), and rookie tackle Trey Lewis (12 tackles, 1 INT) all had interceptions of Vince Young in the defeat. The Falcons have not been great against the run, allowing 121.2 ground yards per game, but limited the Titans to just 92 yards on 32 carries last time out. Boley came through with a game-high 14 tackles in the defeat, and mammoth tackle Grady Jackson (16 tackles, 1 INT) set the tone with five stops in the trenches. Atlanta has eight sacks on the year, including four from top pass rusher John Abraham (10 tackles), but the Falcons did not manage to get to Young in Week 5.

WHEN THE FALCONS HAVE THE BALL

Petrino will stick with Harrington (1070 passing yards, 4 TD, 3 INT) this week after pulling his starter late in last week's loss to Tennessee. The move probably has as much to do with Leftwich's awful performance (2-of-8, 28 yards, 1 INT) as it does his notorious lack of mobility, which would have been severely underscored on Monday. The Falcons will be without both of their starting tackles - Wayne Gandy (knee, out for season) and Todd Weiner (knee) - meaning inexperienced reserves Renardo Foster (left side) and Quinn Ojinnaka (right) will have to fill in for a group that has already allowed a bloated 17 sacks on the year. If he has time to throw, Harrington will look most often to tight end Alge Crumpler (18 receptions, 1 TD) and wideouts Roddy White (21 receptions, 1 TD) and Michael Jenkins (16 receptions, 2 TD), all of whom have had their moments thus far. The Falcons' once-vaunted run game has been nonexistent in 2007, with neither Warrick Dunn (249 rushing yards, 1 TD) nor Jerious Norwood (147 rushing yards) finding much room to run.

Atlanta's two backup tackles could have major trouble against a Giants pass rush that entered Week 6 tied for the NFL lead in sacks with 17. Twelve of those sacks came in a Week 4 rout of the Eagles, including six from end Osi Umenyiora (19 tackles, 7 sacks), the NFL sack leader as Week 6 began. Fellow end Justin Tuck (25 tackles, 4.5 sacks) and outside linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka (27 tackles, 4.5 sacks) have also reached the quarterback frequently. The New York secondary exploded for three picks against the Jets last week, including two from rookie Aaron Ross (12 tackles, 2 INT) and one from veteran Sam Madison (23 tackles, 1 INT). Ross helped ice the game by intercepting a Chad Pennington pass and returning it 43 yards for his first career touchdown. Run-stopping is probably the Giants' main defensive liability at this stage, though middle linebacker Antonio Pierce (39 tackles) and strong safety Gibril Wilson (38 tackles, 2 INT) have both played well in that area for a team allowing just under 100 ground yards per contest.

FANTASY FOCUS

Burress has been as reliable a fantasy player as any in the NFL, having scored at least one touchdown in every game he has played. Manning has obviously thrown all of those TDs, getting those who own him points, though the QB has also tossed at least one interception in every start as well. Beware. The return of Jacobs makes him worth starting, though the team seems prepared to give regular touches to Ward, making both something of a 50-50 proposition. Against the Falcons, all of the above are worth playing, and Shockey, kicker Lawrence Tynes, and the defense aren't bad plays either.

At first blush it might not seem like Atlanta has any worthy fantasy starters, but there are some Falcons to at least consider. Harrington is a quality play in a league that values completions, and he can also get you some late cheap yards if Atlanta is trying to battle back from a sizeable deficit. No. 1 Falcons receiver White has 55 or more yards in each of his past four outings, and looks like he is beginning to come into his own. Crumpler's production is down from past years, but he remains a regular target. And keep an eye on the Falcons defense, which is capable of generating turnovers and has a couple of decent pass rushers.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

It might have seemed that the Giants' 12-sack performance against the Eagles a few weeks back was an aberration, but this game might prove differently. While playing against two backup tackles, Umenyiora, Tuck, Kiwanuka, and Michael Strahan should have a clear path to the not exactly fleet-footed Harrington all night. In turn, you can't expect Atlanta to move the football with anything resembling consistency, and you can also bet on the Giants forcing multiple turnovers to set up some short fields. Defensively, the Falcons might lure Manning into a couple of his own customary turnovers, but they won't be able to hold down the Giants' offensive weapons on a consistent basis. Look for New York to jump out to an early lead and keep Atlanta at arm's length thereafter.

My Sportsbook Predicted Outcome: Giants 35, Falcons 19


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