Originally posted on Big Giants Boom  |  Last updated 1/7/12

Shale Briskin
BGB Contributor

The NFC East Champion New York Giants face off against the Atlanta Falcons during the NFL Wild Card Weekend on Sunday (January 8) afternoon at MetLife Stadium. This is the first postseason appearance in three seasons for the Giants.

The last time the Giants played in a postseason game occurred against the Eagles in the 2008 postseason and the Giants lost that game 23-11. With this being said, Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning and company would very much like to win another Super Bowl in the near future, and if all goes well, this could be that season.

The last time the Giants faced off against the Falcons was in November of 2009 when the Giants defeated the Falcons 34-31 in overtime. Eli Manning threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns that game and will look to attain similar results tomorrow.

Unlike certain portions of the regular season, the Giants will have just about everyone healthy and ready to go for the postseason, with the lone notable exception being backup LB Mark Herzlich. It will be interesting to see how tight end Jake Ballard, who is healthy for the first time since Week 14, plays even though his knee is not at 100%. He will not be wearing a brace for the game. On the other hand, the Falcons may have to play without their top cornerback, Brett Grimes, who is questionable with a knee injury of his own. If Grimes is out, this could be great new for the Giants' receivers.

If the Giants can provide a good pass rush, limit their mistakes on pass coverage, get a good running game from Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, and have as few mistakes as possible from Manning, they should definitely have a good chance to advance in the postseason. With this being said, here are a few keys that can lead to a Giants victory.

Offensive Keys:

#1 Make sure Eli Manning does not throw off his back foot! As many fans have seen over the years, whenever Manning throws off his back foot, his throws generally tend to be either incomplete or intercepted by the opposing defense. If Eli uses good judgment while making his passes, his receivers can help him score a lot of points, and he has two explosive receivers in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Cruz in particular has become one of Manning's new favorite weapons, so if Manning makes some good passes to him, he could have yet another huge touchdown run, which he has done in each of the past two games. Furthermore, with Mario Manningham healthy, Manning should also make some passes to him in order to keep the Falcons' defense guessing.

#2 Maintain balance between the running and passing game! The Giants got 106 combined rushing yards last week against the Cowboys. In order to have a better chance of winning, the Giants will need big games from both Bradshaw and Jacobs. Jacobs in particular is due for a big game. If he can get as much motivation as he had against Rex Ryan and the Jets, he can definitely provide problems for the Falcons' defense. As for Bradshaw, the key for him has always been to limit the fumbles. If he can hold onto the ball and make some good cuts, the sky is the limit for him.

#3 Limit the penalties! As stated by Frank last week, every inch matters, especially now that it's the postseason. The Giants cannot let false starts and other silly penalties get in the way of their gameplan. Being that they're home at MetLife Stadium, there hopefully will not be too many penalties. Nonetheless, if the Giants are called for penalties, they will only be shooting themselves in the foot. It's the first time they have been in the postseason in three years. There is no excuse for any pointless penalties to occur.

Defensive Keys:

#1 Hit Matt Ryan frequently! The heart and soul of the Giants' defense for years has been their defensive line, which widely considered the best group in the entire NFL. With three All-Pro defensive ends in Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, the Giants should be able to get to Ryan and get him to make bad passes and potentially turn the ball over.

#2 Don't let Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rogers run all over you! Much of the Falcons' offense is built around their passing game with Ryan and his top receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White. Yes, the Falcons will be passing the ball a lot, but don't overlook Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rogers. Turner rushed for 1,340 yards and 11 touchdowns this season and if the Giants are not careful, he can add another dimension to the Falcons' offense. Rogers plays mostly in 3rd Down situations, but don't overlook him either. The Giants' defense needs to expect the unexpected in order to keep themselves on their toes and not get burned by a big run.

#3 Avoid penalties! This concept applies to the Giants' defense as well, especially in light of the comments Justin Tuck made towards the Falcons' offensive line. If the Giants' defense can avoid as many penalties as possible, and particularly all the ones that involve mental mistakes, they should be able to somewhat contain the Falcons' offense, even if the Giants' defensive backs are over-matched by Jones and White.

Predictions Time:

Player of the Game- Victor Cruz has been on a roll in the last two weeks. With a three receptions and 164 receiving yards performance in Week 16 against the Jets and a six receptions and 178 receiving yards performance last week against the Cowboys, Cruz should have another big game. If Grimes is inactive for the game, this will only help Cruz become more and more explosive.

Runner Up- Mario Manningham has not been healthy all season, and with a lot of the attention now going towards Cruz and Nicks, look for Manning to find Manningham on shorter routes to try and fool the Falcons' defense. Having more weapons on the field will benefit Manning greatly, and with Manningham is not likely to get as much coverage, he could be a great option in critical situations.

Final Score- The Giants are very fortunate to have home-field advantage in this game, simply because the Falcons have been dominant at home. The Giants are more likely to perform well in cold weather and although this will be a very close game, the Giants should be able to pull out a victory and will likely go to Green Bay to face the #1 seed Packers in the Divisional Round.

Shale - Giants, 34-28
Adam- Giants, 34-24
Jim- Giants, 27-20
George- Giants, 38-17
Frank- Giants, 31-24
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