A win or a loss against the Vikings on Sunday wouldn't do anything to the New York Giants' playoff positioning, but Giants coach Tom Coughlin isn't laying out his plan for playing time just yet.
The similarity to last season is both striking and opposite at the same time.
Last year's final game of the regular schedule had the New England Patriots
traveling to Giants Stadium. Both teams were in the playoffs — but the Patriots were seeking an unbeaten record and the Giants were a lowly 10-6 wild-card entrant.
The question raging around coach Tom Coughlin's head involved whether he should play the regulars or rest them since there was to be a playoff game the next weekend.
His response: "They are undefeated, and we owe it to the rest of the league to make them earn it."
The Giants played hard, played with their regulars and still lost. But it was only 38-35, and they learned a lot about what they were made of in that game; it surfaced again four weeks later when they shocked the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
Now the Giants, with the best record in the NFC and a No. 1 seed in the playoffs, will travel to Minnesota for their final regular-season game.
Nothing can hurt them. They can lose with a smile on their faces. Their status will neither go up nor down. So Coughlin is hearing the same question but the diametric opposite as it was last year.
Will he play his regulars in a "meaningless" game?
"You have to be aware of the fact that the Vikings have a tremendous amount at stake and they are going to play as hard as they possibly can," he said. "The guys we put on the field have to understand that they must play to the best of their ability with intensity and great physical play because that is what we expect from them."
Well, sure, but that's not an answer, coach.
"We will do what is in the best interest of our team," he said.
QB Eli Manning says he is approaching Sunday's game in Minnesota just as he would any other game. "We have to keep our focus and try to improve from last week, so a great week of practice is what we need and then go in there. We expect to play well and try to get a win."
RB Brandon Jacobs is rooting for his teammate, RB Derrick Ward, who needs only 52 yards to reach 1,000. If he makes it, the two (Jacobs already has 1,089) would become only the fourth pair in NFL history to get to the 1,000 mark for the same team in the same season. "I want him to get it," Jacobs said. "I'd be very, very happy, and to be honest with you, that is a special thing to share with someone like him, as close as we are. That would be very special."
TE Kevin Boss has caught 33 passes for 384 yards and six TDs this season, and his blocking has improved dramatically. When asked how he feels about replacing the traded Jeremy Shockey, he just shrugs: "I learned a lot from Jeremy and he's my friend, so I was sorry to see him go."
WR Plaxico Burress, currently under a four-game suspension and placed on the non-football injury list, was alleged to have been the perpetrator of a hit-and-run accident in Florida earlier this year. He is being sued for $50,000. The Giants have no comment, but according to reports they'll deny, they are awaiting the outcome of his current legal situation before deciding whether to cut him loose or attempt to re-sign him for next season. He is facing a 3 1/2-year prison sentence for carrying a loaded, unlicensed handgun in New York City the night after Thanksgiving.
Veteran WR Amani Toomer was asked if beating Carolina last Sunday night evened some sort of score since the Panthers pasted the Giants 23-0 in a divisional playoff game in 2005. "Nope, the game meant we had home-field advantage," he smiled, "and it didn't matter who we were playing."
DT Barry Cofield was asked what he might like to see under his tree this Christmas. He smiled broadly. "Another (Super Bowl) ring would be nice," he said. "That's everybody's No. 1. ... I have one and I am appreciative of it, but another would be better." Cofield was a rookie last year.
DE Justin Tuck (lower leg) added to his woes last week with a bout with the flu. He was seen "taking a knee" late in the game vs. Carolina and vomiting. "I'll be fine," he said. "That kind of thing happens."
The NFL office is not confirming the report, but had John Kasay made the 50-yard field goal to beat the Giants seconds before OT last Sunday, the kick might have been disallowed. The snap was bad, and Kasay was seen taking a step forward, backing up and then approaching the ball again when P Jason Baker put it down properly. That could have constituted illegal procedure. But he missed it, the wind taking it two feet to the right.