After a week-long build-up for Sunday's NFC playoff game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New York Giants, the consensus among the national media is ... there is no consensus, as each team has its fair share of supporters.
At the SB Nation mothership, Andrew Sharp favors the Falcons because of their superior regular-season schedule, taking Atlanta as a +3 underdog:
So yeah the Giants "came up big" down the stretch, but not that big. Beating the Jets andCowboys in 2011 is like an adult passing his driver's test. All that proves is you're not deeply handicapped.
All this while Atlanta ran through one of the deepest divisions in football, coming together and winning 8 of their last 11, with all three losses coming to playoff teams. All this leads to us going with the Falcons
Conversely, at Sports Illustrated, long-time NFL scribe Peter King likes the match-up for rising Giants star Victor Cruz, predicting New York 24, Atlanta 20:
The most important Falcon in the game might be Brent Grimes, a truly underrated cornerback likely to be asked to stop Victor Cruz when the Giants have the ball. Cruz ruined the Jets and Cowboys in the last two weeks, and if he gets the ball in space three or four times Sunday, he could ruin the Falcons too.
At Bill Simmons' Grantland, statistical maven Bill Barnwell breaks down the teams' regular seasons, giving Atlanta the edge for a final score of 30-21:
Although Detroit and New Orleans are getting all the "shootout" attention, this game has just as much potential to turn into a scoring spree. The Falcons should be able to dial up some big plays on Ross and Amukamara, but the Giants may very well be able to do the same on an injured Grimes or an overmatched Owens. The final outcome all depends, as we said earlier, upon which Giants team shows up. After two emotional wins to get in, we suspect that it will be a worn-out one.
At NFL.com, Albert Breer thinks the Falcons offensive line will give Matt Ryan the time to attack a weak Giants secondary, predicting a 30-27 Atlanta win:
The New York pass rush has collected plenty of plaudits over the last month, and rightfully so. But it's also masked a secondary that could be a problem if Matt Ryan has time. And I'd bet dimes to dollars that the Falcons will keep more skill guys in to block, neutralize that Giants front, and give Ryan a chance to get the ball downfield to White and Jones.
For an example of how split the national media is, ESPN published picks from 10 of their NFL experts, with five (Mike Golic, Ron Jaworski, Chris Mortensen, Adam Schefter and Seth Wickersham) taking Atlanta and five (Eric Allen, Merril Hoge, Mark Schlereth, the Accuscore computer model and the Sports Nation public poll) tabbing New York.