Despite a late comeback effort, the Dallas Cowboys fell 31-14 to the New York Giants in the de facto NFC East championship game, meaning the Atlanta Falcons will head to the Meadowlands in next week's 2012 NFL playoffs opening round.
Dallas and New York are similar teams, with capable-if-flaky quarterbacks, many offensive weapons, and fierce pass rushers, but the rooting interest clincher for many Falcons fans was the fact that the Giants play outdoors up north and the Cowboys play beneath a roof. Numbers show Matt Ryan's better indoors, for one thing, but Atlanta's going to just have to pack some long sleeves.
According to Football Outsiders' numbers, the Giants are the NFL's 13th best team (Atlanta ranks No. 10). Their offense ranks No. 7, while their defense stands at No. 21. They rank fourth in passing yardage and last in rushing yardage, which does not play to Atlanta's defensive strengths at all. However, Michael Turner, Roddy White and Julio Jones should be able to damage a defense that ranks in the bottom 11 in yards allowed against both the run and pass.
Expect New York to be favored, though perhaps by only four or five points.
2012 NFL playoff TV times and channels, all p.m. ET:
Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints: Saturday at 8, NBC
Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants: Sunday at 1, Fox
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans: Saturday at 4:30, NBC
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos: Sunday at 4:30, CBS
Saturday, Jan 14
- 4:30 p.m. - NO/NYG/ATL at San Francisco
- 8 p.m. - DEN/PIT/CIN at New England
Sunday, Jan 15
- 1 p.m. - HOU/DEN/PIT at Baltimore
- 4:30 p.m. - NYG/ATL/DET at Green Bay
Head to SB Nation's NFL news section many NFL blogs for more. For more on this game, vist Falcons blog The Falcoholic and Giants blog Big Blue View, plus SB Nation New York.