By Paul Dottino
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The Giants badly require a feel-good moment, one that might be able to get them back on track after their crippling opening-day loss in Arlington.
As luck would have it, they’ll entertain the Atlanta Falcons in Sunday’s home opener — and most members of the Super Bowl XXV championship squad will be in attendance for a halftime ceremony to honor the 25th anniversary of the franchise’s historic upset over the Buffalo Bills.
Suffice it to say there will be plenty of energy in the building, a buzz that will put the fans on the edge of their seats in anticipation of something good. And that’s why the Giants have to deliver — early and often. Seize the moment and allow the momentum to build throughout the day. To do so, they must jump on the Falcons early. They can’t allow any of the air out of the MetLife Stadium balloon, if you will, with sloppy or poor play. Then they must throw down the hammer with a strong finish in the fourth quarter.
Here are three matchups to watch on Sunday:
1) Falcons WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones vs. Giants CBs Dominique Rogers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara
White and Jones make up one of the most dangerous receiving duos in the NFC, if not the NFL. They’ve got the ability to go deep or turn a short Matt Ryan pass into a long gain. But the Giants also have one of the league’s best cornerback duos. Amukamara is more physical and apt to battle the strength of Jones. DRC is a crafty and speedy veteran who is much more likely to try to match wits against the savvy White.
However, DRC said he often looks for direction from Amukamara to see how the tandem wants to play certain situations throughout the game. and the coaches have given them freedom to do so. A better pass rush than the Giants showed in Dallas won’t hurt, either.
2) Falcons CB Robert Alford vs. Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr.
The Giants only targeted Beckham eight times in the loss to Dallas. He caught five balls for just 44 yards and had his streak — an NFL record — of nine straight games with at least 90 yards snapped. It’s clear that he is going to receive a lot more of the opponents’ attention, but the Giants also know that they’ve got to do a better job of getting him involved in the flow of the game earlier.
Alford has a solid all-around skill set to compete with Beckham, although he’s not known as a strong tackler. You can also expect Beckham to line up in many different places in the formation, so others will have to deal with him, too.
3. Giants QB Eli Manning vs. Falcons SS William Moore
First of all, the ever-studious and prideful Manning will do everything in his power to rebound from last week’s finish and get a win. It will be important for him to remain patient and not force the ball into tight spots, where it might get intercepted.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn, the former defensive coordinator in Seattle, deploys Moore in the same way the Seahawks used Kam Chancellor. He’s a hard hitter who sparks the rest of the unit with his smarts, emotion and physicality. Atlanta would strongly prefer Moore to finish the game having made more key plays than Manning.
PREDICTION: Giants 31, Falcons 20
PREDICTION RECORD vs. spread: 0-1