Giants have every bit a chance as anybody

The postseason is finally upon us and who can say with any certainty that your Giants don't have every bit as good a chance as anyone left in the playoff pool? If they can get by the Panthers, whom yours truly believes might be their toughest playoff opponent, then it's off to either Seattle or Chicago.

The Seahawks are definitely no pushover, but like Tiki Barber's said on numerous occasions, the Giants didn't even play their best and they still almost beat the Hawks out there. The Bears? That defense sure is nasty, but they have a two-headed quarterback that doesn't scare a soul. Playing in the Chicago elements? Not much worse than Giants Stadium on a wind-whipped January afternoon.

Getting the home playoff game to start the playoff festivities was paramount for New York's drive to reach Detroit. It's going to take a lot of strong, disciplined play, but they realistically have as good a chance as anybody. Now sit back and enjoy the ride…

Is there anybody easier to root for in the entire sports world than Tiki Barber? He's the classiest athlete you're ever going to meet, genuine, engaging, bright and just a generally caring human being. And did we mention that he continues to break records at an alarming clip?

Barber's latest exploits? How about ripping off a 95-yard touchdown run, the longest run ever in Giants history and topping a record that had stood for 75 years.

The previous mark was Hap Moran's 91-yard run vs. Green Bay on Nov. 23, 1930. For the record, the Giants won that game, 13-6.

"He always seems to make big plays when we need them," Eli Manning said. "That run changes the game right there."

It was no surprise the humble Barber credited receiver Plaxico Burress for his downfield blocking.

"It was an outside power play we run a lot," Barber explained. "They overplayed it. It was a predetermined cutback. The key block was by Plax. He kept blocking 60 yards downfield."

And with 203 yards against the Raiders defenseless defense, Barber topped 200 yards for the third time this season. He rushed for a team-record 220 yards against Kansas City on Dec. 17 and had 206 yards versus Washington on Oct. 30. In the first 80 years of Giants football, the 200-yard plateau was reached only three times, including once by Barber in 2002.

"That's pretty damn good, I take a lot of pride in that," Barber said. "That's special."

Barber is one of just three players in NFL history with at least three 200-yard rushing games in a season. O.J. Simpson had three in 1973 and Earl Campbell ran for at least 200 yards four times in 1980.

"I'm selfish," Barber said of his continuing résumé of records. "I want them all."

Tom Coughlin knows this club wouldn't have even come close to winning its division without number 21 in the backfield.

"He's been outstanding," Coughlin said. "He's been Mr. Consistency. That's a sign of a great player."

That's why Coughlin had to have a lump in his throat the size of Texas when Barber lay on the ground, suffering from a leg injury. Giants Nation was able to breathe a collective sigh of relief when Barber popped to his feet and walked to the sideline under his own power.

"I'm glad he got up because we need him," Michael Strahan said. "We can't do what we do without him."

"Finny (fullback Jim Finn) said if you're hurting, stay out," Barber smiled afterward. "He said, there are 50 or 100 thousand Giants fans (with their hearts in their throats)."

Barber finished the season with 1,860 yards, or 342 more yards than the previous franchise record, which he set last season. He is the 13th player in NFL history to rush for at least 1,800 yards in a season.

Barber is now at a point in his career where he knows how valuable he is to the Giants and has no problem discussing it.

"I'm a bigger part of this team now," he said. "In 2000, I was just emerging. This team relies on me a lot.

"I'm just at a point in my career that I'm good and I know it."

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy…

Who would have ever thought that Michael Strahan would land a Gatorade dunk on Tom Coughlin's head? There's no question Strahan was one of the countless veteran critics of Coughlin when TC took the reins last season. What a difference a year makes.

"It would have been a little far-fetched," Strahan admitted of the possibilities at the season's outset.

Tiki Barber added that the players have bought what Coughlin's been trying to sell.

"Things have changed, we have an understanding of him as a coach," he said. "The guys that complained aren't here anymore."

Strahan was thrilled to catch the, let's say, conservative Coughlin off guard. "The best thing about it is he didn't expect it," Strahan said. "He took a team that nobody believed in…"

Strahan didn't need to even finish his thought. We all already know what Coughlin's accomplished. Now let's see how far he can take it.

And who said people can't and don't change?

OK, Giants fans, it's time to get packing for round two of the playoffs. Whether Big Blue is headed to Seattle for a return date with the Seahawks or to the Windy City to challenge the ferocious Bears defense, Giants Road Crew is the way to go. More than 100 Giants fans rang in the New Year the right way in Oakland with the Road Crew. Don't be left out this time around. For information on following your Giants into the second round of the playoffs, please call 1-800-959-FANS or check out Giants Road Crew on the web at www.giantsroadcrew.com. You'll be glad you did.

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