The Atlanta Falcons try to avoid a losing streak as the New York Giants roll into the Georgia Dome on Sunday. The Falcons are looking to rebound from a crushing defeat at the hands of the Carolina Panthers. Meanwhile, the Giants hope to continue their dominance after defeating the New Orleans Saints 52-27.
But recent history might be a bad omen for the winner.
Giants Might Be Hoping for Loss
The idea of any team hoping for a loss sounds ludicrous, especially in December with playoff implications. But looking back at the Giants' last two Super Bowl seasons, the pattern is undeniable. While the Giants may have been touted as a dominant team after securing a ring in 2007 and 2011, their regular season performances were filled with question marks.
In 2007, the Giants faced three teams in the postseason that they also faced in the regular season. They lost twice to the Dallas Cowboys in the regular season but found themselves on the right side of the scoreboard in the playoffs. They lost a Week 2 meeting with the Green Bay Packers, but the Giants would win when it counted most. In Week 17, the Giants lost a close game to the New England Patriots, only to shock the Pats in the Super Bowl.
The Giants saw history repeat itself in 2011. The Giants suffered regular season losses to the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers. The Giants avenged both losses in the playoffs on their way to another Super Bowl title.
Falcons Have Less History, but...
The Falcons' recent run of one-and-done playoff appearances gives less data to go on. It is interesting to note, though, that in their last three postseason appearances, the Falcons have only faced one postseason opponent in the regular season. The results were not encouraging.
In 2010, the Green Packers visited the Georgia Dome for a game similar to the one the Falcons will play this Sunday. The Falcons squeaked out a 20-17 win and garnered a huge boost in confidence. Undefeated at home, the Falcons were flying high with a first-round bye (sounding familiar?). The Packers returned to Georgia Dome as the Falcons' first postseason opponent.
The only squeaker in that game was the sound of the Falcons under the Packers' boot heel. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers had the game of a lifetime in a 48-21 victory.
History aside, both teams enter the game needing a win. The Giants need a win to help secure the NFC East. The Atlanta Falcons would appear to be the perfect opponent for the Giants to maintain their "hot at the right time" mantra. While winning might not be mandatory, the Giants can ill afford to give the Washington Redskins an extra week this late in the season.
The Falcons have far less at stake. Or do they?
The NFC South has been decided, and home-field advantage is within reach. But after a loss to the last-place Carolina Panthers, this game might be more about psyche than positioning. The Falcons might be focused on proving to themselves that they can hang with the big boys.
Either way, history says that the team that celebrates on Sunday might have to watch the other celebrate in January.