After all, the Patriots were hardly humming along heading into last season's postseason, albeit while continuing their record unbeaten season, and they were unable to make it all the way through.
Will these Giants shake off their recent slide or will they succumb to one of their NFC rivals? It says right here, right now that they'll be fine. First and foremost the Minnesota loss was meaningless, which basically means the Giants are on a one-game winning streak, that coming against what appears to be their chief competitors for the NFC's Super Bowl berth, the Panthers. Yes, the losses to Philly and Dallas were troubling bu t they came with Big Blue playing without the services of Brandon Jacobs.
Having the ability to rest nicked up players against the Vikings and the upcoming bye week should do wonders for New York's health situation. By the way, Tom Coughlin should be lauded for how he handled the tricky situation of managing a meaningless finale. The Giants played to win, but they were smart about it regarding their personnel. Chances are if Coughlin re-inserted his first-team defense New York would have been able to hold off Minnesota's comeback. But it hardly would have been worth it to put players back in the game that had already left the contest and allowed their bodies to cool down, risking injury in the process. The loss of Sam Madison was enough. But fortunately enough for the Giants, Madison will still be able to contribute mentally, as he's done helping out the younger corners all season long.
"We did play hard," Coughlin said. "We played a lot of guys. We did a lot of good things. … We are 12-4. The regular season is over. We do have the week off and we'll use it wisely."
Knowing Coughlin, the Giants will use these two weeks as best they can. They need to refocus and get back to the business at hand – winning football games. It's easy to slip a little bit when you know you already have a playoff spot sewn up, as they did in Dallas. But now it's a win-or-go-home situation; one that they totally took advantage of last season. This year's version has the mental and physical ability to be able to reach another title tilt.
"We're excited about this week, getting back to practice and seeing what we can improve on and where we can get better," Eli Manning said. "We'll also get an opportunity to rest the body a little bit and get guys back healthy and get ready for the playoffs. This is an exciting time for us."
The playoffs are exciting enough. But when you factor in that your Giants are the top team heading in, it just makes things that much more enjoyable. By now, you surely all know that Big Blue will open up at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 11 during the divisional round. They'll face either the Eagles, if they're able to knock off the Vikings, or the winner of the Atlanta/Arizona game.
If I'm the Giants, I'm hoping it's the Cardinals. Not that they can't inflict some damage on Big Blue's suddenly generous defense, because with Kurt Warner and that set of receivers, they certainly can. But their defense is basically terrible and the Giants should have no problem outscoring them, just like they did in Arizona at the end of November. Not to mention the fact that the warm-weather Cards will have to play in frigid Giants Stadium conditions. We all saw how well they fared when they travelled to New England on Dec. 21 and got blasted by the Pats, 47-7.
As for the Eagles, especially, and the Falcons, both teams pose more of a threat. The Eagles are on quite a roll right now that it wouldn't be surprising in the least if they went into Minnesota and knocked off the Vikings. They proved just last month that they have no problem playing at Giants Stadium.
The Falcons are more of an unknown quantity, which makes them scary as well. They're so young and green that they're unlikely to buy into the fact that they don't stand a chance in New York against the Super Bowl champions. Matt Ryan has been phenomenal during his rookie season and there's no way of knowing how long he'll be able to keep his team's current roll going.
You know the old adage, be careful what you wish for. That aside, I'd sure like to see the Cardinals and their immobile quarterback and porous defense come calling next Sunday.
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