Playoff Time

The Giants made it into the playoffs as the sixth seed in the NFC. This is significant because the path to the Super Bowl on the NFC side is wide open to any team that can put a short hot streak together.

They are in this position because of Tiki Barber. His final regular season game against the Redskins was a classic. Eli wasn't a whole lot of help, but at least he didn't turn the ball over. Amazing isn't it that a young QB like Jason Campbell can look so much more comfortable in the pocket than Eli.

As the sixth seed they will tee it up this weekend against the Philadelphia Eagles. Conventional wisdom doesn't give them much of a chance unless Eli suddenly decides to have a very good game and somehow the defense decides to play a good game too. You know what they say? On any given Sunday, so they will play the game.

The way to beat the Eagles is relatively easy in theory, but difficult to execute. When the Giants have the ball, they must keep pounding Tiki and Brandon Jacobs. The Eagles' front seven has a tendency to wear down as the game goes on. Also, their linebackers just aren't that good. Isolating a receiver, back or TE on Jeremiah Trotter is a great idea. He has bad knees and can't cover anyone anymore. When they see Michael Lewis in the game at safety, they should take some deep shots on him; he is very weak in coverage. Other than that, like we said before, they must stay with the ground game. We don't believe Eli can beat another team in the passing game. They know that, everyone knows that. They will need another error-free game out of him like he showed against the Redskins.

When the Eagles have the ball, the Giants' marching orders on defense are quite clear as well. Brian Westbrook will get his yards, but they can't let him run wild. They must contain him. Jeff Garcia can't run a normal NFL offense because he really can't throw the ball deep. He is good however at dinking and dunking. It is essential that they keep him in the pocket because he will hurt them if they allow him to move freely. He is different than McNabb because when it's third-and-three he doesn't mind running with the ball to keep the chains moving. McNabb looks to throw the ball in those situations. Garcia presents a whole different set of problems to contend with. The Giants must keep the Philly receivers in front of them and then be sure tacklers. It won't be easy but it can be done.

It would be wise to attack the Dallas Cowboys in a similar fashion. They also are not great against the run. They also have coverage problems at safety and the way to attack them is deep. Roy Williams is great in the box on run support, but he is shaky in coverage deep. When the Cowboys have the ball, the Giants must contain two backs, Julius Jones and Marion Barber. They are a solid running tandem. Like with Garcia they must keep Tony Romo in the pocket. He is much better when he moves outside and he is good at throwing accurately on the run.

The first and second seeds are the Bears and Saints. They have earned first-round byes. It is our opinion that the Saints are the most dangerous team in the NFC playoffs. The Bears have Rex Grossman; the Saints have Drew Brees; enough said about that. The Bears' offense is sporadic at best and their defense is overrated. They can hurt opponents on special teams. With Devin Hester as their return man, they are dangerous. Again if a team can control Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson they have a chance to beat them. As strange as it may seem, Grossman has actually had worse games than Eli. We don't know of one team that would be afraid to go into Soldier Field and play them. They have been an easy playoff out in the recent past, basically one and done. One reason for this is that they play in the weakest division in the NFL. They are not challenged in their own division and as a result they are not battle-tested.

The Saints cause all kinds of problems when they have the ball. If you don't believe it just look back to when they played the Giants a few weeks ago. They know what they are doing. They are a superbly coached team. Sean Payton and his staff have done a great job. They know how to deploy Reggie Bush to get the most out of him. Their play-calling is extraordinary. It also helps that Drew Brees has become one of the league's top QBs. They have taken a defense with mediocre talent and made them an efficient unit. It's our opinion that they could be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl.

Seattle appears to be a mirage. They have not played nearly as well this year as they did last year. Matt Hasselbeck has not had a strong year and Shaun Alexander is not the same back. Both missed substantial playing time with injuries. Their defense has been porous. Once a team makes the playoff chase they can be dangerous and that could be the case here. It's really hard to discount any team at this time of the year, including the Giants.

They AFC is a whole different story. San Diego is the most complete team in the league and they should make it all the way to Miami. They have a lot going for them. It's hard imagining them not making it to the big game.

So Giants fans, the team has a long way to go and it won't be easy. No one expects them to get through the wild card game and that is a fair assessment. They really haven't shown anything that would give even the most optimistic fan a comfortable feeling. But, keep this in mind: The games aren't played on paper. The NFC is so mediocre from top to bottom that anything is possible and if a team refuses to take an opponent seriously it could be sent packing just like that.

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