The New York Giants know the score this weekend. To get to the NFC playoffs they have to go to Washington, defeat the Redskins and then hope the Chicago Bears defeat the Green Bay Packers. If those two things do not happen, the Giants go home without a playoff berth for the second straight season.
"We have one thought in mind and that is to play the kind of game that we can all be proud of, to win our 10th game, to go 3-3 in the division and to at least get rid of the taste from the other night and give ourselves something to be proud of here as we finish the regular season and then whatever happens happens," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin.
That, in a nutshell is the situation the Giants have put themselves in after a pair of devastating losses the past two weeks. First, with a chance to grab control of the NFC East the Giants blew a 21-point lead in the final eight minutes against the Philadelphia Eagles. Then, Sunday, with a chance to secure a playoff berth and eliminate Green Bay, the Giants were blown out by the Packers, 45-17.
The 9-6 Giants on Wednesday sounded like a wounded team trying to salvage it pride more than trying to get into the playoffs. That is probably a good idea, since the Giants have lost control of their playoff destiny with their implosions the past two weeks.
"No one put us in this position but us. We can't fault anyone but ourselves. We had it in the grasp of our hands, and we didn't take advantage of the opportunities," said safety Antrel Rolle. "Now, we have to leave it in the hands of something else. It's something in this league that you never, ever want to do. You don't ever want something else to try and control your destiny, you always want to have that control yourself."
Coughlin is not trying to make the Giants forget the sting of Sunday's loss to Green Bay. Rather, he is trying to use it -- and to remind his team what this season was supposed to be about for the Giants in the first place.
"I didn't try to put it in the rearview mirror. I talked more about different spots during the season where we discussed the fact that our offseason was pointed in a particular direction and we wanted to re-establish ourselves, our pride, our honor, which we didn't do last weekend, so therefore we have one game in order to do that," Coughlin said.
So, here is a question. If the Giants are able to win on Sunday, finishing with a record of 10-6, can they feel good about themselves even if they are shut out of the playoffs?
"I think so," said defensive tackle Barry Cofield. "It's hard to have 10 wins in this league. We play in a tough division, so if we can get to .500 in the division and get a tenth win, I think that does matter. You play to win always, no matter what the circumstances are, so that's what you do as a pro and especially with the way we've played the last couple of games, we definitely have to do something to try to erase those memories."
To fans who think a Super Bowl title is the only acceptable outcome of any season that might not be a good answer. If the Giants and Packers both win 10 games, though, the Packers will get in based on one of those 10 wins -- the one over the Giants. And in the NFC West a seven-win team could win that division and make the playoffs.
"I haven't even had one thought on that," said Coughlin. "Maybe in a couple of weeks I might have something to say about that, but right now the way our game is, we're all by division and you win the division, you're in and that's what we live by."