TheThree Keys to NY's Post-Season Run

We saw the best and the worst of the Giants in the first month of the season. We learned a lot too. We learned that this Spagnuolo fellow might not be such a bad coordinator after all. We learned that Sam Madison and Michael Strahan have some spring left in their legs. We learned that Mathias Kiwanuka might be something other than a disaster at linebacker.

But a 12-game puzzle remained. The season's first quarter has ended. The second quarter, which begins with the Jets game, has begun a whole new season for the Giants. They have the goods to make a big run and position themselves for a spot in the post-season tournament. And that notion brings up a thought so frightening you might want to brace yourself with a deep breath and an adult beverage.

Tom Coughlin might save his job.

That would be just fine if the job weren't as head coach of the New York Giants.

Just think; here's a guy who last year seemed about as popular as stadium parking restrictions potentially being asked to lead the team for the next three years or so.

Sorry, I wasn't trying to ruin your day.

But really, seriously, the NFC already is looking a lot like it did last season, which leaves a post-season opening for an 8-8 team or two. How could Coughlin possibly be fired should he lead the Giants to a third straight playoff appearance? The answer is that he can't.

There's really no arguing Coughlin's return if he gets this team to the playoffs. And I believe he's going to get them to the playoffs.

The Giants, though, might want to break a few bad habits first. We know Eli needs to have a big year. We know the defense needs to play something like it did against Philly. But there are three less obvious keys to a Giants post-season run. Their road to the playoffs will finish in a dead end unless they:

1. Stay healthy. There is no single factor more important to this team's success than keeping the training room from looking like dime draft night at Scores. And if that means sitting Plaxico Burress for a game – or any other player hobbling each Sunday – then sit him for a game. There's no need to recite the team's injury history under Coughlin. It is, in one word, deplorable. In other words, be as healthy as possible for a second-half run.

2. Be mentally prepared every single game. Don't suffer the horrible loss, a la Tennessee last season. The Giants are famous for playing to their opponent's level, for letting down and lacking focus against inferior teams. In other words, they better not dare lose to Atlanta, San Francisco or Miami.

3. Shut up and play. The Giants must keep from feeling too good about themselves during prosperous moments. They must keep from committing idiotic penalties such as taunting and spiking-the-ball delay of game, as well as focus-flawed penalties such as illegal procedure and offsides. The Giants have committed more penalties than their opponents in three of the past four seasons. They have a knack for making boneheaded mistakes at the worst possible times.

The Giants have the talent to make the playoffs and maybe even put a dent in the tournament. But they need to stay relatively healthy. They need to play with focus and intelligence.

Is that asking too much?

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