The three R's of preparing for the Playoffs.
For the Giants, Playoffs begin in two weeks. Defending the title? That begins Now.
Despite the fact that the Giants have wrapped up home field advantage and a first round bye in the post season, it's not likely that Tom Coughlin will approach Sunday's game against the Vikings conservatively. That's not to suggest that Coughlin wouldn't - or shouldn't - rest a couple of key players to give them an extra week of much needed recovery time. There's enough depth on this team, particularly at running back and on the defensive line, that affords Coughlin the opportunity to outright sit a couple of players, limit the playing time of a few others, and still maintain a full head of steam as Big Blue goes for their 13th win of the season.
The Giants may face Minnesota in the playoffs a few weeks down the road. For that reason alone, a convincing victory Sunday against this Minnesota team - that must win to guarantee themselves a playoff appearance - is important. It would send a strong psychological message right to their thought process. A convincing victory with many of their first-string players wearing baseball caps - instead of helmets - would send a strong emotional message to their hearts. Either affect goes a long way... the Vikings are a solid team that's had the Giants number in recent years.
Besides, "taking it easy" down the home stretch is not how Coughlin operates. Historically, he's never pulled back the reigns. "You can't play like that," said veteran wide receiver Amani Toomer. "You never know who you're going to play, so we're not going to hold anything back. That doesn't seem like how Coach (Tom) Coughlin would play the game."
Offensive lineman David Diehl agrees. "I think you just do what you have to do to win the football game, regardless. Don't get me wrong, there's little different things you can do here or there. But we are who we are. This is our 16th game. We've shown what we do."
"I hear things like we have everything locked up and all this nonsense, but we still have to go out and play well," added Chris Snee. "If we go out and take a step backwards, it doesn't make sense to me. We have to keep that winning feeling."
THINGS TO DO LIST for Sunday 12/28
Fred Robbins returned to action last Sunday night after a fairly significant layoff due to a shoulder injury. The good news is that he looked strong and healthy, while the not-so-good news is that he wasn't nearly as effective stopping the run as he normally is. He will play some to get reacclimated and work on his rhythm, but they should replace him at some in the first half with Jay Alford. Though he played last week, scored three touchdowns and was effective in spots, Brandon Jacobs is still nursing two sore knees and should be riding the pine this Sunday in Minneapolis. The closest he should get to the field is when bringing some water to Derrick Ward as he comes off the field. Ward will get the start in the backfield, but will likely give way to Ahmad Bradshaw for the majority of the second half. I don't doubt that Brandon could play if he had to, but the reason to sit him is two-fold. His knees are one reason...
DE Jared Allen
... is the other reason. Let's see... Matt Schaub. Aaron Rodgers. Kyle Orton. I won't go as far as to call Allen out as a cheap shot artist (as many in the media have), but I'll say that late hits, low hits and injuries seem to follow this guy around. Allen is the kid you knew in school that you couldn't quite put your finger on; he could be fun to hang out with and seemed friendly enough - but trouble always seemed to find him and you never felt 100% comfortable in his presence. Heck, I'd go as far as to say the Giants should play straight two tight end sets and have three guys keeping strict tabs on Allen to make sure he's got a white jersey on him at all times. Which brings me to item #2 on the list...
QB David Carr
Coach Coughlin will go all out for the win. That's fine with me, as long as he does so with Carr in the second half.
Second year receiver Steve Smith had a very similar season last year to the one Manningham is having this year. Not so much in terms of grasping the offense and understaning the playbook, but more so regarding the nagging minor injuries and lack of playing time leading into the final weeks of the season. Smith had 1 catch for 8 yards the entire season heading into the week 17 matchup with the New England Patriots. He caught 3 balls in that game for 27 yards, and while he may have turned a few heads and had some - like myself - saying "Hey, the kid looks pretty good", nobody could have predicted how those extra reps would help him become a key contributor in the postseason. When I watch the game Sunday afternoon, I want to see Manningham get some serious playing time. I want to turn my head and say "Hey, the kid looks pretty good."
Player Quotes source: NY Daily News