Is a long playoff run in cards for Big Blue?

Paul Schwartz: One loss down in Washington and a slight struggle in Oakland and all of a sudden there's this groundswell of doubt that the Giants can do any damage in the playoffs. There's still plenty of reason for optimism. Hey, the Giants didn't put five players in the Pro Bowl because the voters all love New York. Tiki Barber is one of the most valuable players in the entire league and he's shown he can carry a team a long way.

And Kenny, if you weren't too busy searching under your Christmas tree hoping someone bought you Penn State underwear you'd have noticed that the offensive line is getting healthy at the right time. Luke Petitgout is back and so is Kareem McKenzie and David Diehl is back inside at left guard. The unit is whole and playing with that familiar chip on its collective shoulder, out to prove wrong all the doubters. We're so close to the situation I think we at times under-appreciate just what a force Barber can be. He's taken over games this season and he can do it again in the postseason, as long as Tom Coughlin and John Hufnagel give him the opportunity to do so.

Ken Palmer: Having Barber, who is obviously one of the game's top players (thanks for the inside info there, buddy) and a healthy and rejuvenated offensive line can do wonders for this Giants offense. However, the main reason for optimism as New York enters the playoffs is none other than quarterback Eli Manning. Yes, Paul, you heard me correctly, Eli Manning. There have been more ups than downs this season for the precocious Manning, and when all is on the line expect easy Eli to deliver. Has he done much of late to put your mind at ease in this regard? Of course not. But you just get a feeling that he's going to be one of the game's most clutch performers – all you have to do is look at late-game comebacks against the Cowboys, Broncos and Vikings. There is no grander stage than the postseason, where every single move is magnified. Expect Manning to step his play up once the playoff bell rings, and the Giants to make a nice little run as a result.

PS: You make it sound as if Eli is Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer all rolled into one. C'mon, this guy has never played in an NFL playoff game in his life. Yes, coming back to beat Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl and beating Nebraska in the Independence Bowl and tossing three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter of the Music City Bowl all look nice on the résumé but I don't know if they equate to what he'll face in the playoffs. History tells us that first-time quarterbacks in the post-season rarely have a long shelf life. And truthfully, what has Manning shown down the stretch of the season to make you believe he's peaking at the right time? There are a handful of concerns for the Giants as they move into the playoffs. The terrible injuries at linebacker are near the top of the list. If Antonio Pierce could come riding into Giants Stadium the Giants would view him as Superman, here to save the day. I won't soft-pedal the loss of Pierce but in a single-elimination tournament a team can't survive and advance unless the quarterback is operating at a high level. Sure, the Ravens back in 2000 won a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer in the pocket, but that was an unusual year and a special defense. The Giants don't have a special defense and they'll need Manning to grow in a hurry. Why can't you see this? Too much eggnog on Christmas? I know it's not too much Champagne on New Year's. I've got you pegged as a beer man all the way.

KP: Plenty of beer, no doubt. But certainly not enough to overlook New York's main concern heading into the playoffs, which you obviously had no problem doing. How about the secondary? The unit that's been a trouble spot for New York seemingly all season. Tom Coughlin was so fed up with the poor play in the defensive backfield that he thrust a rookie into the lineup only one game before the postseason starts. Smart coaching? Well, maybe a little. But that move smacks so much more of desperation. The Giants need some kind of break and luck in the secondary and everyone's hoping and praying that Corey Webster can be the catalyst. If not, opposing teams are going to play-action the Giants to a quick, yet painful, playoff death.

PS: All this debate leads us to the following question: Just how far can the Giants go in the playoffs? In another year, I'd say not very far, as they certainly have some holes and deficiencies that figure to crop up at the wrong time. But in the NFC, where there's plenty of good and not any great, the Giants have a shot at getting to Super Bowl XL in Detroit. Not a great shot, in my view, but more of a shot then they would have if they resided in the AFC. The field isn't awe-inspiring. The Panthers don't run the ball well enough, the Bears play outrageous defense but with Rex Grossman at quarterback aren't exactly an offensive dynamo, the Buccaneers have their own kid quarterback in Chris Simms and wouldn't it be something if Phil's son came to Giants Stadium for a playoff encounter with Big Blue. The Redskins? Credit them for hanging tough but they likely wouldn't escape the Meadowlands with a victory. The best of the bunch is Seattle and the Giants already showed they could play with the Seahawks. If not for three missed field goals by Jay Feely the Giants would have been the only team to win at Qwest Field. How far can the Giants go? I'd say they'll win a home playoff game and, given their lousy showing on the road this season, won't get past the second round.

KP: There's Paul out on his infamous weekly limb. Win at home and then lose on the road, huh? That must have taken a lot of imagination there. These Giants are headed to the NFC Championship Game, injuries be damned. There's no question they can beat anyone in this field in the cold and wind of Giants Stadium. Then, they'll go back to Seattle and get even for letting that crushing loss get away from them right after Thanksgiving. However, the joyride will come to a screeching halt in Chicago, because no one's stopping Da Bears from getting ready for another Super Bowl Shuffle. And by the way, oh brilliant one, if these Giants resided in the AFC, they likely wouldn't even have made the playoffs. Sure hope one of Paul's New Year's resolutions is to put up more of a fight in Double Coverage next season.

The Giants Beat Top Stories