By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game: I hope we all realize just how schizophrenic we’ve become as sports fans. Just seven days ago, many Giants’ fans and many in the media were labeling the Giants as the best team in the NFC. Now, many don’t give New York a chance on Sunday night in Philadelphia. Seven days. As is usually the case, the truth lies somewhere in between.
When healthy, the Giants are as well-rounded and perhaps talented as any team in the NFL. They have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, a solid offensive line, a good running game, and one of the better receiving corps in the NFL. They can pass and run the football. Defensively, the Giants can stop the run and rush the passer. They have a very athletic secondary. On specials, the Giants have a solid place kicker, are improving in coverage, and finally found a decent returner.
What we don’t know is just how good the team is because the caliber of the competition the team has played. (By the way, this is true of many “good” teams in the NFL). The Panthers, Bears, Texans, Lions, Cowboys, and Seahawks are certainly not considered the “top” teams in the NFL. Perhaps two teams remaining on the Giants’ schedule fall into that category: the Eagles and Packers.
But the Giants will be nowhere near full-strength on Sunday night. Eagle fans will charge, “Hey, we have our injuries too! No excuses!” They are partially correct. The Giants would be OK if there injuries were spread out more, but they are unbelievably concentrated at two positions: the offensive line and wide receiver. Both the starting and back-up centers are out (O’Hara and Koets). The starting left tackle is out (Diehl). His original back-up is coming off a broken foot and will take some time to round back into form (Beatty). The third option at tackle has a chronic back issue that flared up at practice this week (Andrews). The left guard is now playing center (Seubert). And his replacement is coming off a torn pectoral muscle injury and missed all of camp, the preseason, and most of the regular season (Boothe).
At wide receiver, the Giants lost Domenik Hixon at mini-camp. Victor Cruz is on Injured Reserve with a hamstring injury. Ramses Barden is on Injured Reserve with a fractured ankle and ligament damage. And most importantly, Steve Smith is out with a partially torn pectoral muscle. Derek Hagan, who the Giants signed off of the street this week, may be the third receiver on the team now.
What Eagles’ fans are right about is this: “No excuses.” There is no room for self-pity in the NFL. The scoreboard doesn’t care about it. The Giants still have Eli Manning. They still have Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Kevin Boss. They still have a mostly-healthy defense. There is enough talent to get this thing done.
I may not know much, but this I do know: too much will be made out of this game regardless of who wins. This is not a playoff game. The team that plays best on Sunday night may not be the team that is playing best in January. In 2007, the Cowboys convincingly swept the Giants in the regular season. But who remembers that? Instead people remember a little divisional game in Irving, Texas in January 2008 that ended with R.W. McQuarters picking off Tony Romo the end zone.
The more important picture – the big picture – is this: to make the playoffs, the Giants will probably have to go 4-3 in their last seven games. With two games against the Eagles and one game against the Packers, the margin for error is slim. The Giants simply cannot afford to slip up against the Redskins (twice), Jaguars, and Vikings. If they do, they are going to have to beat the Eagles at least once and/or the Packers in Green Bay. But you know what? If the Giants can’t go 4-4 in their last eight games (they have already lost to Dallas), then they really don’t deserve to make the playoffs, do they?
As I was commuting to work this morning on the DC Metro, all of these thoughts were bouncing around my head. As I exited the subway station, I spotted a man in front of me wearing a jacket like this:
As I passed the man, I said, “Now that’s a jacket!” He saw that I was wearing my Giants’ slouch cap. And we both smiled. We both know the upcoming game will be difficult. And that the Giants may lose. But we both know the Giants have been in far worse positions than this and have succeeded magnificently. And we’re proud of that fact and proud of this team. In the last 24 years, the Giants have won three Super Bowl titles and four NFC Championships. Some of the greatest post-season games in NFL history are New York Giant victories, including Super Bowls XXV and XLII and the 1990 and 2007 NFC Championship Games. The Giants were not given a chance in any of those games too. A mid-season game against the Eagles? Big deal. Glory comes in January and February, not November. If the Eagles or Giants are better on Sunday night, it matters, but not as much as you think.
That said, these types of games are fun. Giants-Eagles. In Philadelphia, a place where the Giants are 4-3 under Tom Coughlin. The Giants are the undermanned underdogs. Fans around the country expect a repeat performance of the Eagles-Redskins game. It’s the Giants against the world, baby, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. As I passed the man in the jacket on my way to work, I found myself smiling and involuntarily punching my fist into my other open hand and saying, “Let’s go!”
Let’s go Giants!
Giants on Offense, Defense, and Special Teams: I’ve read all week that the Giants should do this or do that. Adjust their game plans on defense and offense to deal with the Eagles. Screw that. Play your game New York and let the chips fall where they may. Dictate to the Eagles, don’t let them dictate to you. If they are the better team on Sunday night, so be it. But be who you are and do those things that you do well.
Prediction: Not a clue. But I am sure too much will be made out of this game regardless of who wins.