The 1-5 New York Giants get their third NFC South team in four weeks when they face the 2-4 Atlanta Falcons on Monday. The Giants are 8-4 all-time at Atlanta, but this will be their first trip to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Including a Thursday night home loss to Philadelphia, Big Blue has dropped three games in a row while Atlanta broke a three-game skid of its own last week with a win over Tampa Bay.
"We got one [victory]," coach Pat Shurmur said. "To get the next one, and the next one, and the next one, that's the goal. Teams fight through adversity and it's in the Giants' DNA to pull this thing out. I've seen it, I've studied the history of it, and I like the locker room that we've assembled. I'm impressed with the guys that we have in the locker room, and I know they're going to fight. I watched the games just like you have and coached the games – these guys fight, and these guys have enthusiasm. We just haven't executed, and I'll keep saying that until we do.
"And when we win the game, you know what I'm going to say? We executed better but we still made a lot of mistakes. Just write that down, because that's what you try to do until you play the perfect game. I haven't heard any coach take the podium and say their team played the perfect game. That's the goal, and you really don't worry about the results. You just try to eliminate those execution errors and then put it out there. It's a thrill of competition, not to dread. You just go play. That's what drives players and coaches to do what we do. That was a little bit of a rant, but we're all friends here."
Here are three keys for the Giants in Atlanta:
1. Protect the football. The Giants can't give any extra possessions to the Falcons because they won't return the favor. Atlanta, which goes on its bye week after the primetime game, has turned the ball over a league-low three times heading into Week 7. Former MVP Matt Ryan has thrown 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions this season while averaging 326.0 yards per game. The Falcons' plus-4 turnover differential has not necessarily translated to wins yet, but across the league, teams are 26-11-1 when they are plus-1, 14-2 when plus-2, and 15-1-1 when plus-3 or better. Conversely, teams are 14-55-2 when they lose the turnover differential (22-22 when it's even). The Giants are minus-4 on the season.
2. Stay on schedule. A stat that must keep Shurmur, the play-caller, up at night is the Giants' average yards to go on second down. And that number is 9.17. It's the highest in a league that averages 8.01 yards. The lack of production on first down has put them behind the sticks, leading to a third-down conversion percentage of 37.8, ranked 22nd in the NFL. The Falcons are second at 49.4. The good news for the Giants is that Atlanta's defense is the worst in the league on third down, allowing conversions 56.2 percent of the time. The Giants' defense is 14th at 39.0 percent.
View the projected starters for Monday's game against the Falcons.
3. Tilt the field. Big Blue spent most of Thursday night on its heels after Eli Manning's interception on the second play of the game gave the ball to the Eagles at the Giants 16. Field position has been a problem all season due to struggles in every phase of the game. Opponents have an average starting field position of 30.3 yards, the sixth-highest in the league. Meanwhile, the Giants have an average starting field position of 24.9 yards, second-to-last behind the Steelers. A spark in the return game wouldn't hurt.
"It's putting a full game together, and we haven't done that," Manning said. "We've showed glimpses of good play in series, but we've just got to play that complete game. Just finding ways to extend drives, stay consistent, and try to avoid the negative plays."
View rare photos of the all-time series between the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons.