We have done a position-by-position breakdown of the offenses for the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons. Now, let's do the same for the defenses for these two teams, who will meet Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford in an NFC Wild-Card Weekend playoff game (1 p.m. ET/FOX).
Statistically, the Falcons have a superior defense to the Giants. Atlanta is ranked 12th in the league in defense, giving up 333.6 yards per games. The Giants are 27th, surrendering 376.4. Atlanta has given up 21.9 points per game, while the Giants have surrendered 25.0 per games. The Giants are, however, third in the league with 48 sacks.
Here is what Jason Kirk of SB Nation Atlanta had to say about the Falcons' defense during a recent interview:
"I like our defense a lot. OLB Sean Weatherspoon, MLB Curtis Lofton, SS William Moore and CB Brent Grimes lead the young guys who've turned the D into a top-10ish operation, but on both defense and offense there are big scheme questions that will probably lead to FARRRR THE COORDINATOR talk pending another one-and-done in the playoffs," Kirk said.
The Giants have played much better defense the past couple of weeks. The return to health of defensive ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora has helped. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has also noticed something else:
"I just see a lot more communication on their part to each other. I see a lot more bounce in their step and confidence. I see a lot more focus, them wanting to get it right, trying to get it right, demanding each other to get it right. In the meetings there's a lot of chatter and it's not always coaches," Fewell said. "It's them talking to each other about what they did right, wrong or what have you. I think it's just spilled over onto the football field for us."
Now, let's go position-by-position.
The Giants defense is built around its defensive line. Second-year monster Jason Pierre-Paul had 16.5 sacks this season despite playing only part-time much of the year. Two-time Pro Bowler Justin Tuck finally appears healthy. Osi Umenyiora returned to the lineup last week after a four-game absence and had two quarterback sacks. The Giants are solid at the tackles with a rotation of Chris Canty, Linval Joseph and Rocky Bernard.
Atlanta had 33 sacks this season, 19th in the league. The Falcons best lineman is veteran John Abraham, who had 9.5 sacks this season. The former New York Jet has 122 sacks in his career.
Former Falcon Michael Boley had a nice year for the Giants with 93 tackles in 14 games, as well as a sack and three passes defensed. Boley also became New York's defensive signal-caller. Mathias Kiwanuka adjusted nicely to playing linebacker and has become a run-stopping force. Rookie Jacquian Williams had played well at times.
Atlanta has a pair of tremendous young linebackers in Curtis Lofton (147 tackles, one sack, seven passes defensed, two interceptions) and Sean Witherspoon (115 tackles, four sacks, eight passes defensed). These are the type of dynamic play-makers the Giants have been hoping to find for a long time.
Corey Webster of the Giants has had a nice season. Aaron Ross started out well, replacing the lost-for-the season Terrell Thomas but faded down the stretch. Rookie Prince Amukamara missed the first half of the season with a broken foot, and has struggled to catch up since returning. The Giants have been forced to move safety Antrel Rolle into a nickel cornerback position in many instances.
Brent Grimes will likely draw dynamic Giants' wide receiver Victor Cruz on Sunday. Pro Football Focus ranked Grimes behind only Darrelle Revis among cornerbacks graded in their +/- system this season. Dunta Robinson would then draw Hakeem Nicks.
"Brent Grimes is my favorite player in the league. He doesn't get beat, he baits quarterbacks into bad throws just by being incredibly short, and he's the best athlete the Falcons have had since Michael Vick," said Kirk. "Top cornerback Dunta Robinson can be beaten and will miss a tackle on Sunday, but he hits like a linebacker, which usually gets him in trouble."
The Giants use three safeties -- Kenny Phillips, Rolle and Deon Grant -- much of the time. Phillips is the best of the three, but speed is an issue for this group. Rolle led the Giants in tackles with 96, but often struggled in coverage when asked to try and handle slot receivers.
Thomas DeCoud of Atlanta had four interceptions this season and is teamed with William Moore.
"Strong safety William Moore finds the ball and makes big hits," Kirk said. "Free safety Thomas DeCoud seems to get in frequent communication mishaps with Dunta, and we never really know who to blame there."