After wild card weekend, both of Tablet Magazine’s teams are still alive in the playoffs. Granted, one, the New England Patriots, received a bye and won’t have their first game until next week, when they will play the Denver Broncos and their quarterback, what’s-his-face. But the other, the New York Giants, very much had to play, and boy did they show up: they beat the Atlanta Falcons, who had the better regular season record, 24-2.
The Giants got their usually explosive passing game up-and-running: this time, it ran through Hakeem Nicks, who caught two touchdowns, although standout Victor Cruz had a fine game as well. They got their usual stellar performances from their raging defensive front four—including Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Jason Pierre-Paul—which hit Falcons QB Matt Ryan seven times and sacked him twice. Most importantly generated enough pressure by themselves that the rest of the team could focus on stopping the Falcons’ formidable pass-catching trio, which they did: Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Anthony Gonzalez combined for a pretty lean (for them) 16 catches for 160 yards—and, of course, zero touchdowns. All told, the Giants’ defense pitched a shut-out: Atlanta’s two points came when they forced New York QB Eli Manning to commit intentional grounding in his own end zone for a safety. Yet perhaps the real revelation was the Giants’ running game, which ranked dead-last in the league through the season. With D.J. Ware out, the old duo of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs combined for 97 yards and a touchdown on just 19 touches, averaging more than five yards per carry; and watching them break tackles and grab first downs made you wonder where they had been all season.
It was an all-chalk weekend. So next Saturday night, the one-seed Pats will play the four-seed Broncos at New England, a game that, to say the least, the home team will be favored to win. And, late Sunday afternoon, the Giants will travel to Green Bay to play the 15-1 Packers. This is probably the game that football junkies have the most excited circles around. Last month, the Giants came this close to handing the Packers their first loss of the season, instead losing to them, 38-35, when, after the Giants tied the game with less than a minute left, the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers swiftly led his team up the field to set up the winning field goal. But make no mistake: this is a winnable game for the Giants. The Packers have a couple lineman hurt and a porous secondary and can barely run the ball better than the Giants, and the cold and the grass of Lambeau Field, which will slow the game down, actually to my mind hands the advantage to the Giants and their pass-rush. This is likely to be a shootout, which means one brilliant passing play or one unfortunate turnover could very easily lead to an upset. It is beginning to feel an awful lot like those playoffs after the 2007 season, when an okay Giants team backed in and made a championship run. Their penultimate victory that year was … in Green Bay.
Our playoff record: 1-0.
Earlier: Our Two Playoff Teams
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.