Originally posted on Big Giants Boom  |  Last updated 1/6/12
Jim Mancari BGB Assistant Editor
When we think of the Atlanta Falcons, the following playmakers automatically come to mind on the offensive side of the ball: Matty “Ice” Ryan, future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez and big time wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones.

The Giants secondary will have a difficult enough time trying to defend these players, but Big Blue’s defense cannot lose sight of the Falcons running game.

One of the key matchups in this game will be the Giants front seven against Atlanta’s running backs.

The Giants enter Sunday’s game as the 19th ranked team against the run in the NFL at 121.2 yards per game. They’ll have to bear down up front to stop a three-headed Falcons’ attack.

Michael Turner is the featured back, and he finished third in the NFL with 1,340 yards rushing behind only Maurice Jones-Drew and Ray Rice. That averages out to 4.5 yards per carry. He also scored 11 touchdowns, making him one of the league’s most underrated players.

Turner is a big physical back that picks up speed once he gets into the open field. If he finds holes early, it could be a long day for the Giants defense.

The Falcons also employ running back Jason Snelling. Based on his rushing total of just 151 yards, you would think he isn’t an effective backup, and you’d be wrong.

Snelling is the third and short option. Give him the ball with a yard or less to pick up, and he’ll get it done. He’s another physical back who can wear down a defensive front.

If these two options weren’t enough, Jacquizz Rodgers is the shifty third back on the team. At just 5-feet 6-inches, Rodgers’ quickness provides a change of pace to Turner and Snelling. He’s averaged 3.6 yards per carry on the year.

In addition to carrying the ball, all three backs, especially Turner, can be dynamic pass catchers out of the backfield. They serve as check down options for Ryan if the receivers are covered down field.

One thing is certain heading into Sunday’s game: The Giants top-rated defensive front will put pressure on Ryan. In passing situations, Big Blue will send the kitchen sink into the offensive backfield.

But that’s when the linebackers need to step up and defend against the run. Ryan can read blitz and audible to a draw play, which would send Turner, Snelling or Rodgers into the secondary untouched. That’s what the Giants need to avoid.

Meanwhile, the Giants are the 29th ranked defense against the pass, so much of the focus will be on stopping Gonzalez, White and Jones. But once again, if the Giants don’t take care of their run assignments, the Falcons could have a field day.

Former Falcons and current Giants linebacker Michael Boley said he’s eager to take on his old mates. Containing the Falcons backs on the outside will be his responsibility.

The Falcons have an explosive offense, so it’s imperative that the defense puts together some early stops to allow Eli Manning to put some points on the board to give the G-Men a cushion. It worked against Dallas, and now it has to work in the playoffs.

Not to get ahead of ourselves, but the road to the Super Bowl starts Sunday at 1 p.m.

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