There are several reasons why the Atlanta Falcons can beat the New York "Football" Giants. There might be a few more that says they probably will not, but their odds brightened massively when the Detroit Lions lost to a little-used backup quarterback for the Green Bay Packers and were sentenced to play this weekend -- instead of the Birds -- at New Orleans.
Foremost, the Giants have gone through a gauntlet of high-quality opponents. Have you ever seen a back half of any team's schedule that included the Patriots, the 49ers, the Eagles, the Saints, the Packers, the Cowboys (twice) and the Jets.
OK, technically, that is nine games, but you get the point. Only the Redskins slipped into the murderers' row. Significantly, the Giants lost to them. New Yawk could be hitting a wall.
Second, if the Falcons cannot be at home, they are fine and dandy in an outdoor stadium with chilly weather and clear skies, which is anticipated Sunday. Tailback Michael Turner is reasonably fit and rested, in part because he has been held out of the team's heaviest practies most weeks. The combination of Turner with Matt Ryan and three formidable receivers is one many teams would die for.
Take two Advil to relieve your headache over the defense, then remember that cornerback Brent Grimes, the pride of the secondary, returns from an injury layoff. Without him, Giants receiver Victor Cruz would run wild. With Grimes, he might anyway, but there is hope for reasonable containment.
Lastly, there is Ryan, due for a playoff breakthrough after an 0-2 start in the postseason. Another quarterback of note started similarly, then won the Super Bowl in his third try.
That quarterback? The Giants' Eli Manning.
The Falcons are not likely to repeat Green Bay's improbably journey of a year ago: three road wins before taking the Super Bowl. But there is a chance Atlanta could begin in the same fashion.
A good chance.