Eli Manning and the New York Giants were on an excellent late-season run when they took on the Atlanta Falcons in New York on Sunday, and made the most of their momentum on their way to a dominant 24-2 win. As Mark Maske reported:

The New York Giants began the postseason just as they ended the regular season, with a solid performance — and a victory — under win-or-else circumstances.

They used three touchdown passes by quarterback Eli Manning, a significant contribution by their running game and dominant defense to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 24-2, in a first-round NFC playoff game Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

I think today we played outstanding defense,” Giants Coach Tom Coughlin said, “and that set the tone for everything else that happened in the game. . . . If we can continue to play defense like that, we can make ourselves heard in this tournament.”

The fourth-seeded Giants advanced to a conference semifinal next Sunday in Green Bay against the top-seeded Packers. It will be a rematch of a Dec. 4 game here in which the Giants pushed the then-undefeated Packers to the limit before quarterback Aaron Rodgers directed Green Bay to a last-second field goal to prevail, 38-35.

There was no such drama in this one. Manning gave the fifth-seeded Falcons an early safety but rebounded to throw two touchdown passes to wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and another to wideout Mario Manningham.

The Giants moved the ball effectively on the ground with running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, a rarity for them this season, and the defense stuffed Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan on two critical fourth-down quarterback sneaks.

“They won the line of scrimmage,” Falcons Coach Mike Smith said.

The Giants are finding their form at the most important time in their season, and hope to continue to outperform their early season play against the Packers. As AP explained:

Time to go on alert, Green Bay. The New York Giants are coming to Lambeau Field next weekend believing they have a good shot at knocking off the defending Super Bowl champions.

If the Packers (15-1) have any doubts, all they have to do is look at what Eli Manning and the Giants did to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday in a dominating 24-2 win in the NFC wild-card game. And if that doesn’t convince them, maybe they should remember their game against the Giants on Dec. 4.

Aaron Rodgers had to lead a late drive to set up a last-second field goal in a 38-35 win at MetLife Stadium.

If that game was tough, this will be tougher.

The Giants (10-7) have changed. There’s more to Tom Coughlin’s team than Manning and his talented pool of receivers. New York has rediscovered its defense and found its running game. This is once again a complete team, much like the team that came into Green Bay in early 2008 and captured the NFC Conference title with an overtime victory on a brutally cold evening.

“We are going to out there and give all our effort and we are going to walk away with a win,” All Pro defensive end Jason Pierre Paul said after the Giants won their third straight game and fourth in five since the loss to the Pack.

The impressive performance of the Packers did not stop Giant Jason Pierre-Paul from guaranteeing a win for his team this weekend. As Matt Brooks reported :

The comparisons of this year’s New York Giants team to the wild card team that won the Super Bowl in 2008 began last month and will be everywhere this week.

Led by a dominant defensive front and the lethal combination of Eli Manning to Hakeem Nicks, the Giants trounced Atlanta 24-2 on Sunday to earn the right to travel to Green Bay for a matchup with the defending Super Bowl champion Packers.

It was a confidence-building win for a team that has been playing with its back to the wall for weeks now. After the game, Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul let on just how confident his team has become when he threw down the gauntlet with some bold words to New York Post reporter Paul Schwartz.

“We’re going to win,” the NFL’s sack leader said. “One hundred percent we’re going to win ... because we’re the best.”

What happened to the old adage: ‘To be the best, you have to beat the best.’

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