The New York Giants have two games remaining, and they can guarantee themselves a playoff spot if they win both of them. The Giants face the 9-5 Baltimore Ravens this week (4:25 p.m. ET/FOX) at M&T Bank Stadium, then finish the season with a home game against the 4-10 Philadelphia Eagles.
The Giants, 2-4 in their last six games have gone from 6-2 and in control of the NFC East to 8-6 and desperately needing to win their final two games to reach the playoffs. Sunday's 34-0 loss to the Atlanta Falcons was the most lopsided loss ever suffered by a defending Super Bowl champion.
New York coaches and players are saying all the right things heading into Sunday.
" ‘Hope’ is a nice word. If you have that, and you have a circumstance which is obviously dismal and extremely disappointing, and when you put your heart and soul in it, it’s a heavy burden. When you create the scenario of hope, it hopefully is going to be an uplifting thing that when we do come back on Wednesday that we realize where we are there’s a little bounce in our step and we get back to work," head coach Tom Coughlin said on Monday.
"Our backs were against the wall. It is a playoff situation for us, if you will. We now have to win to have the opportunity to go into the playoffs. We’ve responded to that in the past. We’re going to have to respond to that again"
Quarterback Eli Manning said Monday he expects the team will do exactly that.
"If you say at the beginning of the season that you have two games left and you've got to win both of them to be in the playoffs, I think you'd take it. This is an opportunity you ask for. These are circumstances you want to be in. Could there be better circumstances? Yeah, of course. There can always be better, but there could be much worse. We like our chances. We know what we need to do and it's right in front of us and we've got to go out there and win this game this week."
The Giants open the week as two-point favorites over a Ravens' team that has lost three straight games and appears to be imploding, with quarterback Joe Flacco saying this after Sunday's loss to the Denver Broncos:
"We’re a 9-5 football team, and it feels like we’re 0-14 right now."
In some ways the Giants and Ravens enter the game in similar situations, although the Ravens have already clinched an AFC playoff spot. Neither team has played the quality football in recent weeks that it did early in the season.
"We're well aware of what Baltimore is going through and they lost a few in a row. They've got a new offensive coordinator. They're going through some circumstances as well and they're going to be fired up," Manning said. "They're going to have that kind of same attitude and want to get back to playing well. ... they want to get back to playing their style of football, what they expect of themselves and we're expecting the same thing from ourselves."
If the Giants can't get back to playing the consistent, error-free football they played earlier in the season, their defense of their Super Bowl title will end much earlier than anyone would like it to.