EAST RUTHERFORD NJ - NOVEMBER 28: Jason Pierre-Paul #90 of the New York Giants celebrates after David Garrard #9 of the Jacksonville Jaguars was sacked at New Meadowlands Stadium on November 28 2010 in East Rutherford New Jersey. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
There isn't a bigger question going into this game.
Let me put it this way: The Falcons have an above average passing offense. They have a ground game at least capable of making some noise. Their defense is capable of holding a ground game in check and slowing a passing game. They have quality special teams, when they remember how to tackle.
On the other side of things, the Giants have a weak ground game and a very strong passing offense. You could make a reasonable argument that stopping their passing game should be priority number one for the Falcons, and on the defensive side of the ball, I'd agree. Their special teams are fine. Their defense has its struggles, but with one caveat.
That pass rush.
The Giants are tied for third in the NFL with 48 sacks. They have, arguably, one of the best three defensive lines in football today. They have the unstoppable Jason Pierre-Paul, who has 16.5 sacks and simply cannot be handled by most tackles in the league today.
If you ask me, this is the thing that ought to be keeping Mike Mularkey and Matt Ryan up at night. If the Giants can run roughshod over the Falcons' blockers, they'll have little trouble bringing Ryan to the turf or forcing him to make bad throws. That will lead to turnovers, weaken the ground game and force three and outs, which plays right into the Giants' offensive strength. But we covered that ground yesterday.
The Falcons have to slow down JPP, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and maybe Michael Strahan, if he comes out of retirement. The reason this is such a scary matchup is because...well, what can you possibly do at this point? You sink or swim with the offensive line you have. Mike Cox and Reggie Kelly can chip in and block a little, and so can Michael Turner and even Tony Gonzalez if you really want to get crazy. None of those guys are going to put much of a dent in that big blue wave washing over the line, though, so it's up to Will Svitek through Tyson Clabo to get it done.
This is the rare question I don't have a semi-compelling answer for. I think the Falcons will be able to limit the damage, but what will matter in the end is what happens on those plays where the Giants get into the backfield and lay the wood on Ryan. If the Falcons dust themselves off and keep moving on offense—and if Ryan's not down three or four or five times—they can hang in there. If those hits cause turnovers or stall big drives, they may very well be in trouble.
It is worth remembering that the Falcons pumped the brakes on the Vikings pass rush, and by sack total alone, that's the best one in the NFL.
So that's the big question. What's your answer?