The 1-5 New York Giants are coming off a 34-13 Week 6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, in which the Giants’ 37-year-old and fast-fading quarterback Eli Manning was 24/43 for 281 yards, zero touchdowns and a pick, giving him a pitiful quarterback rating of 3.2.
But don’t watch the Giants to see Manning struggle, watch them to see first-round draft pick Saquon Barkley, a receiving running back who plays football like he’s directly channeling the spirit of Barry Sanders. Chatty receiver Odell Beckham may get all the press coverage, but Barkley is too busy beating defensive coverage and putting up the sixth most rushing yards in the NFL (438).
The 2-4 Atlanta Falcons won at home last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but they barely held on to their 34-29 lead. Quarterback Matt Ryan’s arm and place kicker Matt Bryant’s leg kept them ahead, but with only seconds to go, the Bucs spoiled their own close call with the end zone by letting the ball go out of bounds on a desperation hook-and-ladder.
The Falcons are currently in last place in the NFC South, but only by two games. They’ll be looking for an ‘easy’ win against the Giants so they can start climbing closer towards the Saints, or at least wildcard possibilities.
If the Giants win this matchup, they’ll move to 2-5 but stay in the NFC East basement. But if the Falcons come out on top, they’ll move one game under .500, and if the Cleveland Browns can take care of the Tampa Bay Bucs, their NFC South position improves, as well.
Who’s favored to win this Week 7 Giants-Falcons matchup?
Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?
Which team’s quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?
We’re going to compare the Giants and the Falcons and attempt to answer those questions and more.
The 2018 Giants offense is Barkley
The Giants’ second-year general manager David Gettleman passed on the chance to draft a quarterback this offseason and instead selected a running back with the second choice in the first round. This signaled to Giants’ fans that he was happy enough with quarterback Eli Manning’s remaining potential to grab Barkley instead of, say, Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen.
At this point, it’s fairly obvious the Giants do need a new quarterback, and soon, but in the meantime there is absolutely zero buyer’s remorse with Barkley, who continues to impress and amaze.
Against the Eagles, Barkley ran for 130 yards and a touchdown and, oh yeah, he also caught 9 balls for another 99 yards from scrimmage. When a rookie puts up those types of numbers, especially on a team that looks so bad otherwise, the football world notices. Against a 30th ranked Falcons defense, chances are Barkly will be extremely noticeable.
Beckham is also fun to watch, and often – he’s currently tied for fourth most targeted receiver (69) in the league with the Falcons’ deep threat Julio Jones.
The 2018 Falcons offense
The Falcons offense is run by the third-ranked quarterback in the league, Matt Ryan. He’s thrown for 1,997 yards and 14 touchdowns with only 2 interceptions. His passer rating is 113.6 – only three other active NFL quarterbacks have higher ratings. Receivers Mohamed Sanu (hip) and Calvin Ridley (foot) are questionable for Week 7, but Ryan still has tight end Austin Hopper to target.
And he has Julio.
Ryan has All-Pro receiver Julio Jones to throw balls at, and he’s been taking advantage of that a lot this season – as mentioned, he’s tied for the fourth most targeted receiver in the league (69). Jones has caught 44 balls for 708 yards already, but has no touchdowns. Last season Jones caught 88 balls for 1,444 yards yet only racked up three touchdowns, causing some fans to question why Ryan targets Jones so infrequently in the red zone.
Running back Devonta Freeman has been placed on injured reserve for Week 7 (foot), so the Falcons’ running game will rest on the backs of Tevin Coleman and rookie Ito Smith. They’ll have to do better than they did against the Bucs when they combined for 57 total rushing yards.
Giants Defense ranks 14th in the league, Falcons D ranks 30th
The Giants mid-ranked defense is better against the pass (12th ) than the rush (25th), though it won’t matter as much with the Falcons’ Freeman on the sidelines rehabbing his injured foot. They only have 4 interceptions and are tied for last in the league with just 7.0 sacks, but their opponents only convert on third 39.0 percent of the time, good for 14th best.
Defensive standouts against the Eagles last week were safety Landon Collins (10 tackles, 1 for a loss), linebacker Alec Ogletree (8 tackles, one for a loss) and cornerback Eli Apple (8 tackles). The Giants defense can definitely tackle (ranked 11th with 402 combined tackles), but they let their opponents score an average of 27.0 points per game, and that’s only been good enough to win once.
The Falcons’ defense is porous – they let the Bucs stay in the game last week right up to the end. They’ve allowed opponents to move the ball an average of 417.2 yards per game (ranked 30th) and score 32.0 points per game, ranked second worst in the league.
Injuries have plagued the Falcons’ defense, and this week defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (ankle), end Derrick Shelby (groin) and cornerback Justin Bethel (knee) all had limited practice time.
Special Teams Stats Comparison
New York’s punter, Riley Dixon, acquired in a trade with the Broncos this offseason, has punted 26 times for a net average of 41.8 yards per punt, ranked 8th in the league.
Atlanta’s punter, Matt Bosher, who has only ever been a Falcon in his eight NFL seasons, has punted 23 times for a net average of 36.75 yards per punt, ranked 29th in the NFL.
New York’s placekicker, Aldrick Rosas, a second year player, both with the Giants, has gone 13-for-14, his longest was a 53-yarder. He hasn’t missed an extra point attempt (8/8).
Atlanta’s veteran placekicker, 43-year-old Matt Bryant, is doubtful for Week 7 (hamstring) so free agent kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, acquired this month from the Cardinals, will be kicking instead. Last season for the Raiders he went 5-for-5, his longest was a 53-yarder. He only missed one extra point attempt (33/34).
New York’s punt returner, wide receiver Odell Beckham, is ranked 63rd in the league for return yards. He’s returned 7 punts for 18 yards, averaging 2.6 yards per return, his longest was for 15 yards.
Atlanta’s punt returner, wide receiver Justin Hardy, is ranked 50th in the league. He’s returned 9 punts for 43 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards per return, his longest for 14 yards.
Giants-Falcons predictions and odds
The oddsmakers have the Falcons favored over the Giants by 5.5 with an over/under of 54.5.
CBSSports.com has two final score predictions:
Pete Prisco goes with the way over and has it Falcons 33, Giants 30
John Breech takes the under and predicts it Falcons 31, Giants 20