A month of smashing victories and growing confidence, or a cruel one filled with upsetting defeats and anonymous grumblings from players who sometimes view their coach as a guy with all the warmth of a two-headed cobra. Whichever way they steer, the Giants will look back knowing November graciously provided the team with three very winnable games.
But, asking Giants players to discuss November games prior to Sunday's October finale in Minnesota is like getting them to describe the 2005 season. It's not going to happen. Not in Coughlin's regime, where the only two things players are allowed to think about is the current opponent, and how to get to the next meeting early enough to secure a front-row seat.
"You really have to look at each game one at a time," Will Allen said. "If you don't, and think ‘Okay, we can win this one, but we might lose that one,' you really lose sight of a lot of things and lose track. So we only focus on the game we're playing this week."
For the record, the Giants have played close to .500 ball in November the last three seasons. Since 2000, the team is 8-9. Of course those are former coach Jim Fassel's numbers. The good news for Giants fans is Coughlin's November mark is much better, 19-13. That record includes both the Jaguars expansion season in 1995 when the team was 0-4 during the month and the '99 season when they won an incredible 11 straight games from Oct. 3-Dec. 19.
Mixing the Giants so-so history in November with Coughlin's Thanksgiving tradition of gaining momentum will prove to be an interesting combination.
For the Giants to play like Coughlin's team and not revert back to last year's group means the team needs to rebound from the Lions debacle and go back to being the highly prepared, disciplined team that earned them four-straight victories.
Coming off a big win in Minnesota, the Giants must beware the "C" word – Complacency.
That's because this week's game against the Bears seems as easy as a Vijay Singh two-foot putt. Whether they face the awful Jonathan Quinn-led Bears or the rookie Craig Krenzel-led Bears, the Giants should have nothing to fear from a Chicago team with little roar. Of all the great things first-year coach Lovie Smith did this year, from bringing in offensive coordinator Terry Shea and his explosive Chiefs offense, to acquiring Thomas Jones and using him like Priest Holmes, he didn't think too deeply about the most important piece – the quarterback situation. Instead of keeping veterans Chris Chandler and Kordell Stewart to back up young Rex Grossman, he cut them. When Grossman was lost for the season, he had only a journeyman and a rookie to fall back on.
Sure, after the letdown against the Lions, the chance of the Giants being complacent for any game is smaller than Tom Coughlin's desire to chitchat. Then, again, NFL games typically come down to the team that can make 2-3 more plays than the opposition. Like the Red Sox proved, anything's possible. Especially if the Giants buy into the fact that the Bears will be playing like wounded animals.
"Every week any team can win," Allen said. "That's the way you've got to play the game. There's no way you can go into a game looking at it any other way."
"Until you just mentioned who we're playing, I didn't know who we're facing (in November)," echoed linebacker Kevin Lewis. "Around here we're one dimensional: one play at a time, one game at a time."
While the Giants wrestle with the quasi-domestic Bears, the Eagles play at the Steelers without Brian Westbrook. They follow that with a dangerous Monday night game at Dallas.
Meanwhile, the Giants second game in November is in the desert against the punchless Cardinals. Yes, Emmitt Smith is looking more like the 2002 Cowboys version than last year's 2.8-yards per carry player. Still, the Cards are not exactly chanting playoffs. If the Giants play mistake-free or sort-of-mistake-free, they should win.
The weekend before Thanksgiving, while the Eagles host the Packers, where Brett Favre may be intent on atoning for his game-ending punt, er, interception in last year's playoffs, the Giants host the enigmatic Falcons. While the Falcons appear to be among the NFC's elite, in reality, they're in disarray. Michael Vick has struggled so much he's not even a feasible fantasy option anymore. He had thrown just 4 touchdowns with 6 picks and ranked a distant 23rd among QBs.
And Atlanta's defense, which was thought to be the team's strength, gave up 56 points and – yes, the rumors are true – an NFL record 8 rushing touchdowns to the Chiefs on Oct. 24, four of them to a guy named Derrick Blaylock. If Blaylock can score quatro, Tiki should be able to score at least cinco, right?
So, let's review. Three November games, all three very winnable.
But just as Allen cautions about declaring certain games "winnable," tackle David Diehl believes in a more aggressive approach.
"All games are winnable," Diehl said. "There are no games different from any other. The main thing is we've had high expectations of ourselves all along. People are now noticing that all the work we put in the offseason and training camp is paying off."
Diehl warns, however, that winning games is contingent on "learning from mistakes and correcting them each week," as the best way to enjoy a successful season.
Finally, there's the Giants most important test of November and, perhaps, the season. The rematch against the Eagles on Nov. 28.
In the first meeting during Week 1, the Giants were lauded for almost keeping pace with the Eagles. That's before they showed critics that they weren't as bad as they had been hyped by ripping off four in a row. With December around the bend, the Giants will get their much-awaited replay with the team that's supposed to have the best chance to unseat the Patriots.
Yet without securing three straight victories leading up to the Eagles showdown, the Giants may fall short again. It's up to them. As Allen points out history has little to do with how you play if you block it out.
"You really can't take into consideration a team's history in certain months if you don't know about it," Allen said. "That's why we're going to just concentrate on the business at hand."
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