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Eye On the Atlanta Falcons: Scouting Report


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants will try to break a three-game losing streak when they make their first visit to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for a Monday night game against the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta defeated Tampa Bay last week to improve to 2-4, including 2-2 at home, while the Giants fell to 1-5 with a Thursday night loss to Philadelphia. The Falcons lead the regular-season series, 12-11, and the Giants won the only postseason meeting in a 2011 NFC Wild Card Game. The teams met most recently on Sept. 20, 2015, when the Giants led by 10 points early in the fourth quarter before Atlanta scored two touchdowns for a 24-20 triumph in MetLife Stadium.

What is the Falcons' biggest strength?

Their passing attack. Matt Ryan is in the top five in the NFL in most major passing categories, and has completed almost 70% of his passes, has thrown for 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions, and his 113.6 passer rating is the league's fourth highest. Ryan throws to what is arguably the NFL's best trio of receivers in Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and first-round draft choice Calvin Ridley, the league's Offensive Rookie of the Month in September. They have combined for 1,359 yards in six games. Sanu is usually the slot receiver. With those wideouts at his disposal, Ryan is taking his shots down the field – he has attempted 31 passes of 20 or more yards, the league's second-highest total behind Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes.

Which player is key to the Falcons' offense?

Jones can wreck a game by himself. The five-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro has 44 catches, exactly twice as many as both Sanu and Ridley. Jones' 707 receiving yards place him second in the NFL, just five yards behind Minnesota's Adam Thielen. He has been targeted 69 times. Sanu and Ridley have had 60 passes thrown to them – combined. Remarkably, Jones has dominated without scoring a touchdown this season. He is on pace to finish with 117 catches, 1,885 yards - and zero touchdowns.

What is the strength of the Falcons' offense?

The passing game isn't the only facet of offensive football at which the Falcons excel. They are second in the league in third-down conversions, succeeding on 49.4% of their attempts (39 of 79). Atlanta has committed an NFL-low three turnovers, including one lost fumble in six games. And in addition to their gifted set of skill players, the Falcons put pressure on opposing defenses by deploying numerous personnel groups, adding a lot of pre-snap motion and window dressing, and playing at a fast tempo.

Which player is key to the Falcons' defense?

Defensive end Takk McKinley, the Falcons' best edge rusher. He has 4.5 of the team's 10 sacks and five tackles for losses. A second-year pro, McKinley is a hard-nosed, relentless and productive pass rusher.

What is the strength of the Falcons' defense?

Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, both six-year pros, can match up with any pair of corners in the NFL. Both are fast players who move well and possess natural cover skills. Trufant is a former Pro Bowler. Nickel back Brian Poole makes it a talented threesome for opposing receivers to contend with.

View the projected starters for Monday's game against the Falcons.

Which player is key to the Falcons' special teams?

This week, it's their new kicker, Giorgio Tavecchio. Matt Bryant, whose 377 field goals place him 13th on the NFL's career list, strained his hamstring kicking a 57-yarder late in the victory against Tampa Bay on Sunday. Bryant has made 86.1% of his attempts, the ninth-highest figure in history. He has been Atlanta's reliable kicker for 10 years. The Falcons need Tavecchio to maintain the same standard of excellence. In his only NFL season, he made 16 of 21 field goal attempts and 33 of 34 PATs for the Oakland Raiders last year.

The Falcons' injury report:

Running back Devonta Freeman (foot/groin) this week became the latest key Falcons player to go on injured reserve. Left guard Andy Levitre suffered a torn triceps in a Week 2 victory against Carolina and was placed on I.R. The defense has also lost important starters, including a pair of 2017 Pro Bowlers in linebacker Deion Jones (foot) and safety Keanu Neal (ACL). Atlanta's other starting safety, Ricardo Allen, is also on injured reserve with a torn Achilles tendon.

Based on the scouting report, what must the Giants do to win the game?

Slow down the Falcons' offense, which includes two key components: pressure Ryan early so he doesn't have a clean pocket, and clamp down the run so Atlanta can't use play action, which has been very productive this year. Offensively, the Giants should keep Saquon Barkley busy against a run defense that is tied for 24th in the league and has allowed 51 receptions to opposing running backs.

Statistics you should know:

*The Giants are 8-4 in Atlanta. From 1981-2007, the visiting team won 12 consecutive games in the series, the longest such streak in NFL history. That included seven Giants victories in Atlanta.

*The Falcons have scored at least 31 points in each of their four home games.

*They have allowed an average of 34.8 points in their last five games, including two games in which their opponents scored more than 40.

*Atlanta has scored touchdowns on 15 of its last 18 trips into the red zone. The Falcons' defense has allowed 21 touchdowns on 27 red zone trips.

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