Hot Topic and Player Notes

In one of the most unlikely scenarios since this near-concluded 2006 season began, the New York Giants can wrap up the NFC East championship on Sunday with a victory over the Washington Redskins on Christmas Eve.

The scenario became possible with an explosive and surprising blowout of the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday, which provided the Giants with as many victories (10) as they had in the past two seasons combined.

Now it's the Redskins, probably the final stepping stone to the Giants' first division title since they won the NFC in 2000 en route to Super Bowl XXXV.

The only major concern, aside from injuries that kept several starters out of the Chiefs game, is the continuing lack of progress being shown by Eli Manning at quarterback. He is perilously close to sinking below a 50 percent completions ratio (he has completed 259 of 492 attempts) and has 22 touchdowns with 16 interceptions -- with five interceptions in his last three games.

But he still shows the occasional flash of being special, and it is more logical to remember that he has not yet completed his first full season as a starting quarterback.

The Giants' chances at Washington also will rest on whether the Giants can get any of their regulars back -- including linebackers Carlos Emmons (pectoral strain) and Antonio Pierce (high ankle sprain); defensive tackle William Joseph (high ankle sprain); and offensive tackles Kareem McKenzie (hamstring) and Luke Petitgout (back spasms).

But they'll have running back Tiki Barber, who had 220 yards in 29 carries against the Chiefs and has now gained 1,557 for the season -- breaking his team career record (1,518) with two games remaining.

REPLAY

The Giants shredded the NFL's top-ranked defense against the run in a 27-17 win over the Chiefs on Saturday. Running back Tiki Barber's 220 yards accounted for all but 3 yards of the Giants' rushing total. Barber broke the team rushing record (218, Choo Choo Roberts, 1950 vs. Chicago Cardinals) and included two touchdowns and a long gain of 55 yards. He even caught five passes for 29 yards, accounting for 249 yards of offense from scrimmage.

Amani Toomer caught five passes for 69 yards including a spectacular 31-yard TD that was so acrobatic it had to be reviewed to be sure his knee didn't touch the ground at the point of the catch. It didn't.

"I just willed myself not to let the knee get to the ground," he said. "When you want something badly enough, you work hard enough, you'll get it."

The Giants used a rookie free agent, Chase Blackburn, to start for Antonio Pierce at middle linebacker, and he responded with what coach Tom Coughlin termed "a smart, self-contained performance" that included nine solo tackles. There were two new O-line starters and one (left guard David Diehl) who switched positions (to right tackle). Bob Whitfield (left tackle) and Rich Seubert (left guard) were the newcomers.

PLAYER NOTES

--LT Luke Petitgout, who sat out Saturday's game with a back injury, will be evaluated this week to see if he can play Sunday. "We warmed him up and he felt good, but still had the question mark about how he could perform and how long he could perform," coach Tom Coughlin said. "So, he was a guy that we made active. We felt like in case we got in trouble there, he could give us a few snaps, but he really didn't warm up as well as I was hoping he would."

--RT Kareem McKenzie (strained hamstring) missed Saturday's game, but coach Tom Coughlin said he hoped he would be ready to play against Washington.

--LG Rich Seubert, who hadn't played since Oct. 19, 2003, when he suffered a horrifying spiral compound fracture of his right tibia, fibula and ankle in a game against the Eagles, made it all the way back and started against the Chiefs. "I feel so good for him, it is so emotional and inspirational," TB Tiki Barber said. "He has proved that when you work hard and then harder and harder, you can achieve."

--LT Bob Whitfield, in his first start since 2003 in Atlanta, played well against the Chiefs. He provided the block that gave RB Tiki Barber the 5 yards he needed near the end of the game to set the team's single-season rushing record. "I just held my block and held my block and waiting to see where the little guy was," he said. "I was happy to be the one, happy to be on this team."

--The team saluted the "12th man," the Giants Stadium crowd, which has often been accused of polite cheering and applauding. "They were gigantic," coach Tom Coughlin said. "The 12th man was back, and we appreciated it."

--MLB Chase Blackburn, the rookie free agent who started for Antonio Pierce, was still in a state of disbelief after the win over the Chiefs. "I am so excited and so happy I just can't believe it really happened," he said. "I need to think about this." Blackburn had nine solo tackles. He was signed out of Akron, where he was the roommate of QB Charlie Frye, drafted in the third round by Cleveland.

--RB Tiki Barber resented the use of the phrase "jigsaw puzzle" to describe the battered and re-tooled O-line. "Maybe in your mind it's a jigsaw puzzle," he said with a smile. "This is a line that we knew coming into camp was going to work for us, and going into this game we were supremely confident that it was going to be effective."

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