Pivotal showdown: Giants v. Falcons

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning passes against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half of...

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning passes against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half of their NFL football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey January 1, 2012. (REUTERS/Gary Hershorn)

Mike Rutsey, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:03 PM ET

NEW YORK -  Matt Ryan has the cool nickname of Matty Ice but nary a playoff win.

Eli Manning has a Super Bowl ring.

In a game that is approaching mythical proportions by a revved up New York press corp, it is Manning’s post-season success to none by Ryan that is the wide chasm when comparisons are drawn between the two.

Otherwise the two quarterbacks are nearly interchangeable, both in their physical build, their pre-NFL hype, their demeanour.

Both Manning of the Giants and Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons are decidedly low-key. Neither of them would light up a room upon their entrance in the way that say Joe Namath did or Tom Brady currently does.

Try to find anything controversial or outlandish that either quarterback has said and you come up empty. In that regard, they are as big a void as Wayne Gretzky ever was.

During training camp, Manning was asked a “gotcha” question when he was asked if he considered himself to be an “elite” quarterback. It wasn’t quite a “Do you still beat your wife” question but close.

He replied that he did and was hammered for it.

If he had said “no”, they would have hammered even harder.

Take away all the hyperbole and b.s. about the game and it will come down to Manning vs. Ryan. In playoff games how the two quarterbacks perform is always the difference.

Manning has been here, done that, but not recently.

Ryan is 0-for-2 in post-season play and nobody is letting him forget it.

That fact is buried so deep in Ryan’s head that he told reports this week that he is not looking at any TV or websites to avoid constant reminders of his past January failures.

Personally, that shows me he might be lacking in confidence.

By playing in the Big Apple, Manning receives far more scrutiny. By comparison, Atlanta is a country outpost.

Manning has weathered the storm of past failures — his first two playoff games resulted in defeats — and survived all those who suggested he should be tossed aside, that he wasn’t up to the task. He shut that up with the Giants 2007 Super Bowl win.

Ryan, though, is still carrying that cross.

“I think anybody who says they never see or hear any of that stuff to a certain degree is lying,” Ryan said of his playoff record. “But at this time of the year, it really takes a conscious effort of: ‘You know what? I’m not paying attention to that.’ Collectively as a football team, it’s one of the things we’ve learned.”

In the Meadowlands, Ryan is expected to be under intense pressure from the Giants pass rush. They have a gang of assassins that as a group, today, may be the best unit in the league. It will make his job that much harder.

So too will his past two playoff performances. There is nothing in the 30-24 loss to Arizona in 2008 or last year’s 48-21 beating in Atlanta administered by Green Bay, for him to hang his hat on.

In the two games combined, he tossed three touchdowns but also produced six turnovers on four interceptions and two fumbles.

“It’s still so early for him,” Falcons veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez told the New York Times. “I would anticipate he’s going to be in the playoffs a lot in his career. But, yeah, eventually you have to start performing. You’ve got to play well in the playoffs.

“One thing about Matt is he learns from his mistakes. He’ll play up to a level that hopefully he’s satisfied with. I have no doubt about it. He’s a strong-minded person.”

This isn’t to suggest that Sunday will be a piece of cake for Manning as the Giants have plenty of negative history on their side as well. To begin with, they haven’t won a playoff game at home in 11 years.

Crunch time, the Giants’ supports say, is Manning’s time.

“I think it’s just being competitive, wanting to win,” Manning said when asked about coming through so consistently this season. “It’s also the teammates understanding the circumstances, being smart, understand: ‘Hey, this is crunch time. We need plays. We need to play our best football at this point.’ So I think it’s the level of play of the whole offensive unit all of a sudden steps up in crunch time. Guys seem to make plays.”

Nobody more than Manning.

Either way it’s all set up for some great story lines.

Will Manning and the Giants prevail and be on their way to another Super Bowl run?

Or will it be Ryan and the this Falcons team finally come through with a playoff win?

The fun starts Sunday.

Cruz not in step with stars

 Victor Cruz may have New York dancing to his salsa beat but the star receiver won’t be taking his act to Dancing With The Stars.

The hit ABC show recently reached out to Cruz, who breaks into a short celebratory salsa routine each time he scores a touchdown, but were turned down flat.

“I just don’t want to do it,” Cruz told the Daily News on Friday. “I’m just not at a point where I felt like I should be doing that stuff.”

Natural fit

The show has reached out to NFL stars in the past as Hines Ward, Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith and Jason Taylor have all been former contestants. Cruz seemed like a natural fit.

“Definitely no,” Cruz repeated. “I just want to be focused on football and focused on what’s to come.”

Cruz added that the off-season commitment was more than he cared for.

“They said it was like 20 hours a week or something like that,” he said. “I was like: ‘I’m not down, I’m not down with that.’ We’re in the post-season. That’s like 18 weeks. I’ve had enough practice for now. I’m not trying to go into another three months worth of practice.”


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