By Steve Silverman
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Did you see what the New England Patriots did the other night?
It was hard to miss since it was on Monday night in front of a national audience.
Impressive? The 42-14 victory over the Houston Texans was impressive enough for many to rank them as the best team in the AFC.
They are still a game behind the Texans in the race for homefield advantage in the AFC playoffs and tied with the Denver Broncos, but they have beaten both of those teams significantly.
So the more things change in the AFC, the more they stay the same. The Pats are still the team to beat when it comes to getting to the Super Bowl from the AFC side of the equation.
But the Patriots did not just deliver a message to the teams in their conference. They also sent one to the team that has tormented them in two Super Bowls, the New York Giants.
The Patriots took the team that has had the most pristine record in their conference and spanked them hard.
This week the Giants go to Atlanta with a chance to do the same thing to the team that has played the best regular-season football in the NFC this year.
In many ways, the Falcons are the near-equivalent of the Texans. They have played sharp and efficient football in the regular season and they have the weapons to be considered a legitimate power.
However, the Falcons have never done a thing in the postseason and they know that the NFL is not buying in. The only way the Falcons will ever get credit is to beat NFC power teams like the Giants, Packers and 49ers and do it in the playoffs.
This week’s game gives the Falcons a chance to start laying the ground work for a big postseason run. The Giants humiliated the Falcons in last year’s postseason. The scoreboard says the Giants won the wild-card matchup between the two teams at MetLife Stadium by a 24-2 margin and the word out of the Atlanta lockerroom following that game was that the Falcons were flat.
That’s not exactly the case. What happened in that game is that the Falcons got beat physically on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Not necessarily beaten up, but just technically whipped on a majority of the snaps.
The Giants had a running game against the Falcons in that playoff game, something they had avoided during last year’s regular season.
Head coach Tom Coughlin knew that the Giants had to accomplish something on the ground in the postseason if they were going to take pressure off of Eli Manning and give themselves a chance in the playoffs. That’s just what happened in that playoff game against Atlanta as the Giants rushed for 172 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry.
The Giants have bigger and stronger players on the offensive line than the Falcons have on their front four. The Giants should be able to run the ball against the Falcons once again with back-flipping rookie David Wilson doing much of the damage.
Perhaps the Falcons will adjust their defense to keep the Giants from running the ball, but one thing they won’t be able to do is fix their offensive line. Atlanta is weak at the offensive tackle position and the Giants should be able to wreak havoc on Matt Ryan as a result.
Left tackle Sam Baker is known as a “finesse” player and Jason Pierre-Paul could have his best game of the season. Right tackle Tyson Clabo is a good athlete but he is not a road grader. Justin Tuck may just eat him up.
If those edges play out, the Giants will hammer the Falcons on their home turf. They should have plenty of motivation. Not only do they need to maintain an edge in the NFC East over the Cowboys and Redskins, they saw what the Patriots did on Monday night.
They want to show their rivals they are also capable of handing out an impressive beat down to a Super Bowl wannabe.
Do you think Eli and the Giants will put on a performance against the Falcons, like the Patriots did against the Texans? Let us know in the comment section below.