GET THE FIRST "W"
The New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons will enter Sunday's matchup looking to avoid an 0-3 start after both team lost their first two games of the season. The Giants lost to the Washington Football Team, 30-29, on Thursday Night Football after Dustin Hopkins hit a game-winning 43-yard field goal with no time left on the clock. After coming within three points of tying the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Falcons gave up 20 unanswered points, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns by Buccaneers CB Mike Edwards, and Tom Brady finished with five touchdown passes as Tampa Bay emerged with the 48-25 victory.
The Falcons hold a slight advantage over the Giants in the all-time series, having won 13 of 25 meetings between the two clubs. Atlanta has won each of the last two matchups, with the last game occurring in 2018 when the Falcons won, 23-20. The Giants won the only postseason contest between the two franchises back during the 2011 postseason. Big Blue handled the Falcons easily in the NFC Wild Card Game, winning by a score of 24-2, which began the team's playoff run to a Super Bowl XLVI title.
New York Giants:
- Out: LB Cam Brown (hamstring)
- Questionable: DB Nate Ebner (quad), TE Evan Engram (calf), WR Kenny Golladay (hip)
- Out: CB A.J. Terrell (concussion), WR Russell Gage (ankle), WR Frank Darby (calf)
CHANGES ON THE O-LINE
We are only in Week 3, yet the starting offensive line has already gone through some significant changes. After putting starting left guard Shane Lemieux on injured reserve last week, Nick Gates shifted over from center to guard. During the first half at Washington, Gates fractured his leg and has since been placed on IR. Just a few days ago, the team announced that Lemieux likely would miss the remainder of the regular season after undergoing surgery.
When Gates moved over to fill in for Lemieux at guard, Billy Price took over at center and ended up playing every offensive snap last Thursday. Once Gates got hurt, Ben Bredeson stepped in and played 56 of 69 snaps at left guard. Price and Bredeson were acquired in trades at the end of August just days before the start of the regular season.
"I was actually really pleased with the way they came through the other night," Coach Joe Judge said earlier this week about Price and Bredeson. "There are some things we have to clean up and keep building forward at all positions – the offensive line is no exception. However, I'd say the way Billy and Ben have jumped in here in a short period of time and really made a lot of gains for us, jumping in and learning the vocabulary with one week of practice and then you have another week of a couple walk-throughs going in there… like the way both guys work and obviously we're trying to get to be the best unit we can be. I talk to guys all the time, it doesn't matter offensive line-wise how you are individually, it's we've got to be the best unit because everything works collectively with those guys."
After missing the first two games of the season, it appears as if tight end Evan Engram will make his 2021 debut against the Falcons. Engram suffered a calf injury during the final preseason game (Aug. 29).
Engram was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2020 after catching 63 passes for 654 yards and a touchdown, adding an additional score on the ground. The 27-year-old's return will be a welcomed addition to the offense after he led the team with 109 targets last year.
10 DAYS OF REST
After playing two games in five days to start the season, the Giants return to the field 10 days after their Week 2 loss in Washington. The extended rest between games should provide enough time for numerous key players, such as Engram, cornerback Adoree' Jackson and several others, to properly heal before taking on the Falcons. But perhaps the biggest beneficiary to the 10-day stretch between games is running back Saquon Barkley.
Barkley saw his snap count jump considerably from Weeks 1 to 2. After being on the field for 48 percent of the team's offensive snaps against the Broncos, he played 84 percent of snaps last Thursday. Barkley's productivity increased as well, gaining 69 yards on his 15 total touches (13 carries, two receptions). The running back has taken 23 carries for 83 yards this season, adding three receptions for 13 yards, and is still looking for his first touchdown.
View rare photos of the all-time series between the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons.
DJ'S HOT START
Heading into training camp, Daniel Jones acknowledged that this was a big season for him as the quarterback of the Giants. Through the first two games, the third-year quarterback has thrown for 516 yards on a 63.8 completion percentage, with another 122 rushing yards on 15 carries (8.1 avg.). He's accounted for four total touchdowns, two passing and two rushing, while registering just one turnover. Jones' overall PFF grade of 83.8 ranks sixth among quarterbacks, while his 85.4 passing grade is second in the NFL (behind Tom Brady, 91.8). He is third in the league in QB rushing yards, while his 8.1 ypc is second among all players with at least 15 carries. Jones was named PFF's Offensive Player of the Week for Week 2 after earning an overall grade of 91.3 (with an elite 90.7 passing grade).
"I think Daniel has really improved in playing winning football at the quarterback position and that's line one," Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett said this week. "That's where it starts. You have to be able to take care of the ball. You have it in your hand every play and I think if you go back to probably the middle of the year last year, you see the strides he's made in that area and that's line one. That's where it has to start. But then you have to have an ability to make plays, too. I think he demonstrated that with his arm and with his feet. From the pocket, throwing the ball quickly, throwing the ball down the field. He made some plays. He handled pressure. He threw it well against man and zone. It wasn't perfect by any means, but he's certainly making a lot of strides and going about it the right way."
AZEEZ GOES FOR THREE STRAIGHT
Second-round pick Azeez Ojulari has gotten his NFL career off to a hot start, recording a sack in each of his first two games. Ojulari became the first Giants player since the stat became official to accomplish this feat, while playing just 58 percent of the team's defensive snaps. The rookie has also caught the eye of Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham in the run game.
"I've seen a young player who's made a few plays, and he wants more," said Graham. "The thing that's encouraging (to) me with Azeez for these young edge guys, is his ability to play the run. He's playing stout in the run game. You think about a young edge player, they're thinking about, 'Okay, I've got to get sacks. Everybody wants to know how many sacks I'm going to have.' He's playing stout in the run game, that's what's encouraging for me."
MATT RYAN VS. NYG
Sunday will mark Falcons QB Matt Ryan's sixth game going up against the Giants. Through the first five, the veteran has gone 3-2 with 1,596 yards, eight passing touchdowns and just one interception. He has also completed 68.1 percent of his passes to earn a passer rating of 102.5. So far this season, Ryan has thrown for 464 yards and just two touchdowns to go with three interceptions for a passer rating of 76.4. Despite some of Ryan's early-season struggles, the Giants know they cannot underestimate the veteran quarterback.
"I think he was an MVP quarterback for a reason," linebacker Blake Martinez said this week. "(He has) a lot of experience. I think getting out there you don't want to get him in to that MVP groove. That's kind of the game plan – make sure he doesn't get comfortable and we're able to kind of dictate the game."
MATCHING UP WITH KYLE PITTS
Kyle Pitts was taken with the fourth overall selection in this year's draft. He has caught nine passes for 104 yards, including an impressive performance against the Buccaneers last week in which he had five receptions for 73 yards. The 6-foot-6, highly-athletic tight end is a tough matchup for any defender, and the Big Blue defense knows they will have to lock the rookie down Sunday.
"I think Pitts, the young guy, stands out," Judge said. "There's a reason they took this guy so high in the draft, a reason why people liked him coming out. You can talk about this guy being a big receiver, but this is a guy who's very capable of blocking and running their offense as a tight end. You see him in the last couple of games as the packages start to unfold and really develop with this guy, he's definitely a threat down the field. You saw against Tampa him taking a slant and extending that thing and getting vertical with it, some of those pop passes over the seam. This guy is really a threat with the ball in his hands, he's definitely a weapon. They can line him up out wide matched up on corners and run all the receiver routes as well, so this guy is a versatile piece."
"He's big, he's fast, he can catch the ball," Graham added. "Because it's only a two-game sample size and some of the preseason, if you go back and watch his college tape it becomes really scary, because all those corners that get drafted in the first round, that's who those guys had covering him. All those teams in the SEC had guys covering him. He's a pretty dynamic player. The combination of speed, size, catch radius and all those catchy terms like that makes him a dangerous player."