Christmas comes early for NFL fans this year. With 24 teams still mathematically alive in the playoff race, Week 15 boasts a bevy of games with major postseason implications. In fact, six games feature teams that are both above .500, and five feature at least one team with a clinching scenario. Let's take a closer look at these six Statement Sunday matchups.
What's at stake?
The Falcons have heard all week that they are a fraudulent No. 1 seed. A loss to the Giants would support that claim and have the team wondering how it will do in big games going into the playoffs. The Giants have more pressing concerns. They lead Washington and Dallas by just one game in the NFC East. New York has to keep winning against a brutal schedule to retain its spot.
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Player to watch
Thomas DeCoud, safety, Falcons: Though the Giants have big-name playmaking receivers on the outside (Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks), tight end Martellus Bennett has been their most consistent scoring threat over the past two games. The Falcons will have Asante Samuel and Dunta Robinson match up with Cruz and Nicks, but they will need their talented safeties to shut down the middle of the field. More ...
Giants' pass rush: The Giants have a leaky defensive backfield. The Falcons' passing attack features big-time weapons. Clearly, Big Blue doesn't match up well here. This is why the pass rush, once again, will mean everything for New York. It's been a bit of a wacky campaign for Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck. Unlike a season ago, when defensive coordinator Perry Fewell's pass rush dominated opponents en route to the Giants' Super Bowl title, New York hasn't been super consistent in that aspect of the game. More ...
Matchup to watch
David Wilson vs. Sean Weatherspoon: With Ahmad Bradshaw's status for this game in doubt, the Giants will likely count on Wilson to duplicate his standout performance from Week 14, in which he gained 100 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns in just 13 carries. Among the fastest linebackers in the league, Weatherspoon will be tasked by the Falcons with cutting Wilson off before he can turn the corner on the perimeter. More ...
Did you know?
Falcons QB Matt Ryan is 32-4 in his career at home (6-0 this season). However, he is 0-2 at home against defending Super Bowl champions, losing to the Packers in Week 5 of 2011 (25-14) and the Saints in Week 16 of 2010 (17-14). ... Ryan has more game-winning drives than any other QB since entering the league in 2008. His 22 is four more than second-place Peyton Manning. ... The Giants have not won back-to-back games since winning four straight from Weeks 5-8. ... The Giants are 6-2 when playing teams outside the NFC East (2-3 in division). ... The Giants are 8-0 when scoring at least 21 points. They're 0-5 when scoring 20 or fewer points.
Elliot Harrison's prediction
Big Blue does a heckuva job protecting its franchise quarterback. That's why the Giants have given up the fewest sacks in the league (15) and why Eli Manning has real opportunities to exploit the Falcons' secondary. If Atlanta's rush can't get pressure on the quarterback -- which, too often, it hasn't been able to do -- then Mike Smith's bunch will lose for the second consecutive week. Can the New York secondary hold up versus Roddy White and Julio Jones? That's the question. The latter has been quiet lately, with just two touchdowns and one performance of more than 75 yards in the past five games. Giants 24, Falcons 23. (See predictions for every Week 15 game.)