The Giants have become Forrest Gump's proverbial box of
chocolates – you never know what you're going to get.
In the last five games they have scored, in order, 10, 24, 35, 37 and 10 points.
The 35-point game was a last-second, three-point loss to the Green Bay Packers,
who have the NFL's best record at 13-1. They scored 37 points in a road victory
over the Dallas Cowboys, who are two games above .500. But they scored 10 points
in home games against Philadelphia and Washington, NFC East rivals who currently
have losing records.
The last of those losses was a 23-10 defeat to the Redskins yesterday in MetLife
Stadium, their fifth defeat in the last six games. The loss dropped the Giants
to 7-7 and in second place in the division.
Although we might not know what we will get from the Giants, the team knows what
it can get – a coveted berth in the postseason field. Despite all the ups and
downs and twists and turns in a wildly unpredictable season, the Giants in one
important sense are right where they want to be with two games remaining – they
can earn a division title without help from another team. To play their way into
the postseason, the Giants must defeat the Jets Saturday (when they will be the
visiting team) and the Cowboys on New Year's Day.
With so much on the line, the players and coaches did their best today to
quickly put behind them the disappointing Washington game and focused on what
"I think you have to deal with it the same way you deal with other losses,"
quarterback Eli Manning said. "We have lost games and we
still know where we stand. We have a big one ahead of us and the only way to get
this bad taste out of our mouths is to play our best football Saturday.
"I think it is a matter of coming out there and finding a way to win. We just
have to put everything together. We need to play our best football as a team.
Our defense plays well and our offense doesn't play well or our offense plays
well and our defense doesn't. We just have to put it all together with both
units playing our best football and the way that we know that we can. We want to
try to put ourselves in a position to win the game in the end."
"We need to focus," linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. "We need to wake up in the
morning tomorrow and prepare and practice the way that we need to, the way that
we should and the way that we normally do. When we get out there on game day, go
hard. Everybody goes hard. Everybody sells out. And everybody knows exactly what
they're supposed to be doing on every play, every formation, every series. We
have more than a great chance of winning. We can get it done. There's no magic
that needs to be done. There are 11 guys on the field that have to decide this
is a game we're going to win. When we do that we'll come out with a win."
The Giants lead the regular season series between the teams, 7-4. But this will
be the most significant contest in the rivalry, because it's late in the season
and both teams control their postseason destiny. The Jets are 8-6 after a 45-19
loss yesterday in Philadelphia. They, too, can secure a playoff berth by winning
their last two games.
The hype generated by the metropolitan-area media would be intense if each team
had a losing record. The fact that the Giants and Jets are essentially in
must-win situations, and the natural competition between two teams that share
the same stadium, should make for an unforgettable spectacle on game day.
"It's one of those environments that is electric," said Kiwanuka, who played in
the last game between the teams in 2007. "You have two teams that share a
building, we hang out, we live and everything within close quarters. We share
some fans. We just understand that it's a big game regardless of how often we're
going to see them just because of how passionate the fans are on both sides."
"Obviously, when you have two teams in the same area, the same city and using
the same stadium, you want to have success," Manning said. "You want to be your
best and if you see them having success, it makes things worse. I think it's
still, not so much about the Jets, it is about our season and what we need to
accomplish and what we are trying to do to enhance our season and extend it."
Coughlin usually ignores pregame hype, but to do that this week would require
him to retreat to a cabin in the woods without internet access.
"I certainly hope it can be good," he said of the attention on the game and the
players. "Let's face it, you have a city that has certainly divided. Half the
city, or you would think half, would be in favor of one team, half the other.
Certainly you're going to sense it. The excitement, in terms of that, I would
hope would be even more stimulation to make this an extremely important game
more than it is. I don't think you need any more, quite frankly, to understand
how important the game is to both teams. If you played it in the parking lot,
for what's at stake and both teams will realize this. It is this time of the
year. It is December in the NFL. You are in the stretch. Both teams are very
much involved in the playoff hunt. The excitement of that time is picked up by
the fans. It's the holiday season as well, so I think it's a good thing."
The Giants take their cue from the conservative Coughlin and seldom utter
pre-game quotes that can get tacked up on a locker bulletin board and inspire
their opponent. Not so the Jets. Their coach, Rex Ryan, predictably stoked the
fire Monday by saying "I think we're better," when asked about the Giants.
Coughlin and Co. declined to take the bait and engage in a war of words.
"I am not going to pay attention to it," Manning said. "My focus is getting
ready for their defense and getting ready for this game. I need to understand
our game plan and what we need to do to try to win. You hear bits and pieces,
but I am not going to go get the paper and read every quote that Rex Ryan is
saying and take it to heart. I am sure some people will respond to it, but it is
not going to be me."
"I don't usually get involved in the rhetoric part of this thing," Coughlin
said. "I think what's important is that the game is an important game to both
teams. And the game will be settled on Saturday afternoon at one."
"It's going to be do or die," Kiwanuka said. "We have two teams that are
fighting. For us, the only thing we're concerned about is achieving our ultimate
goal, which is winning a Super Bowl. Our playoffs have already started.
Fortunately, we still have another opportunity to accomplish that goal. This
week is going to be huge for us."
As it will be for anyone in the New York/New Jersey region with an interest in