As news, these Falcons are for the birds

At long last, the Giants' opportunity to avenge one of their most embarrassing defeats is at hand.

It was Nov. 20, 1966, and the expansion Falcons flew into Yankee Stadium with no victories in their first nine games, only to swat away Big Blue, 27-16, behind former Giant Ernie Wheelwright's two touchdown runs.

Fortunately for the Giants, neither WFAN nor the Internet had been invented yet.

The debacle set the tone for 4½ decades of, well . . . nothing much, come to think of it.

Is there any team in the NFC that would have been a more juiceless playoff matchup for the Giants than Atlanta? OK, maybe the Seahawks.

After back-to-back victories over the Jets and Cowboys -- probably the two opponents ownership most enjoys beating -- the Giants and their fans face an acute hatred deficit Sunday.

There have been a few interesting games between the teams over the years -- none in the playoffs, naturally -- and they have split their 10 meetings, suggesting a close, competitive rivalry.

But beyond that, the Falcons largely have toiled in relative anonymity somewhere south of here, surfacing on the schedule on average less than once every couple of seasons.

I asked Giants linebacker Michael Boley, who spent four seasons as a Falcon from 2005-08, to compare the two football markets.

"I don't really see any similarities,'' he said. "College football is a big deal down there. You have UGA and then Georgia Tech right up the street [from the Falcons' stadium], so it's not as big.''

The Falcons have had their moments, notably the 1998 "Dirty Birds'' who went 14-2, stunned the Vikings at the Metrodome to win the NFC championship, then lost to the Broncos in the Super Bowl.

Their coach, Dan Reeves, held that position with the Giants from 1993-96.

They have not been that far before or since. But this is where the discussion gets interesting regarding a generally uninteresting franchise.

This is the third time in four years with quarterback Matt Ryan that the Falcons are in the playoffs, including the past two in a row -- unprecedented in franchise history.

But Ryan still is looking for his first playoff victory, having gone 0-2, including a 48-21 flameout in the divisional round against the Packers last year that wasted a No. 1 playoff seed.

So while New York-area fans wonder whether Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning can earn their first postseason win since Super Bowl XLII -- and the Giants' first home playoff win in 11 years -- understand that the Falcons are feeling the heat, too. Their last postseason victory was a Michael Vick-led triumph over the Rams seven years ago.

"All the stuff that happened in the past doesn't really make a difference,'' Ryan said. "It comes down to preparing this week and doing whatever we can to keep advancing throughout the playoffs.''

There was a glimmer of hype hope early this past week when the Giants' Justin Tuck called the Falcons' "dirtbags.'' Except that he said he only was quoting other people who have called them that.

Tuck was not his usual chatty self with the news media the rest of the week, perhaps displeased with how his comments were portrayed. Alas, he didn't seem angry at the Falcons. Nor they at him.

"Maybe we should make T-shirts and start branding this, you know?" Falcons left tackle Will Svitek told reporters Wednesday. "We could make a profit in the New York market. It's an opportunity."

Sigh. Where have you gone, Rex Ryan and Jerry Jones?