Only 22 seconds separate the Falcons and Giants this season in time of possession. The Falcons, ranked 11th in the league, occupy the ball an average of 30:38 this year and the Giants, 15th, have averaged 30:16.
It's a small margin, but considering both offenses can't be on the field at the same time Sunday, one of them will lose the time of possession battle. There's a good chance whichever team does will also lose the game.
When two teams with the amount of offensive weapons and explosive ability as New York and Atlanta square off, the opposing defense needs to limit the amount of time they're on the field. In doing that, offenses need to occupy the ball, keeping the opposing offense on the sidelines watching. This is NFL ABCs, but the way to traditionally do this is by running the ball.
"You've got to keep those guys off the field," Falcons running back Devonta Freeman said. "Eli (Manning), Victor Cruz, (Ahmad) Bradshaw and all those guys, you've got to keep them off the field. They've got playmakers on the other side of the ball so we've got to keep them off the field. Keep them off the field, mash the clock and score touchdowns as much as possible and we'll be fine."
Unfortunately for the Falcons they've not run the ball consistently this season. They're averaging 86 yards per game on the ground this season. The Giants have given up yardage on the ground this year (123.3/game) so Atlanta may be able to jumpstart the run game and effectively keep Manning and the Giants on the sidelines, while simueltaneously wearing out the dangerous Giants defense.
A strong running game would also slow down the pass rush of the front four from the Giants, one of the strongest in the league. Falcons head coach Mike Smith said New York's rotation up front is likely the best in the NFL. When they aren't running the ball, the running backs will need to stay home and help keep Matt Ryan on his feet and out of harms way.
"We do that every week," Turner said. "Our O-line here is going to make it a point to Matt upright and keep him clean and keep those passing lanes open for him."