LANDOVER, Md. — The New York Giants’ first round of scoreboard-watching did not go well. If it doesn’t improve in a hurry, their regular season finale against the Washington Redskins will complete another late-season collapse — regardless of the final score.
For once, the Giants actually wanted dreaded rival Philadelphia to win, but the NFL’s rare Tuesday nighter went the other way when Minnesota pulled off the upset of the Eagles. That was a setback for New York because the result clinched a first-round bye for Chicago, and New York needs the Bears to go all out and beat Green Bay on Sunday.
Follow that? The Giants sure do.
“The only thing that I can say is that the Eagles hurt us,” defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. “The Eagles hurt us even when they don’t play us.”
The Giants (9-6) are in a pickle because of five quarters of disastrous football, starting with the fourth-quarter collapse against Michael Vick and the Eagles two weeks ago and continuing with last week’s 45-17 loss at Green Bay. Now their fate is intertwined with the results of at least three other games, so even the most convincing of wins against the Redskins (6-9) might not help New York’s bid for a playoff berth.
“It’s devastating. At the same time, no one put us in this position but us,” safety Antrel Rolle said. “We had it in the grasp of our hands, and we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities. 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.”
When you don’t, it leads to a Scoreboard Sunday. And the scenarios don’t look good for the men in blue.
First, there are the 1 o’clock games: Tampa Bay at New Orleans and Carolina at Atlanta. The Giants are rooting for the Buccaneers (9-6) to beat the Saints (11-4) and the Panthers (2-13) to pull off the almighty upset of the season against the Falcons (12-3).
Those two results are needed to give Chicago motivation against Green Bay — because the Bears could then beat the Packers to claim NFC homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
And, of course, the Giants absolutely, positively need Green Bay to lose. Only a New York win and a Green Bay loss (not counting the various scenarios for games ending in ties) will get the Giants into the postseason.
Both games start in the 4 o’clock hour, and it’ll take quite a bit of focus to resist taking a peak at the latest score from Wisconsin.
“I’m not going to be eyeing it every second because we’ve got to keep our focus on what’s going on,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “It doesn’t matter if one team is up by three points — it’s not going to make a difference for us. The worst thing that could happen is all of a sudden we think we don’t have a shot to make the playoffs and we don’t prepare, we don’t go and play our hardest and Chicago wins. That’s what you can’t let happen. We’ve got to go in expecting everything to work out for the best, feeling that Chicago is going to win for us. Go in with that attitude and if that doesn’t work out, all we did was give it our best shot and it didn’t work our way.”
The Giants had an unusual start to their week of preparation, spending an extra full day in Wisconsin after the Green Bay loss because of the big snowstorm back east. They returned to hear questions about coach Tom Coughlin’s future and the possibility of becoming the first 10-win NFC team to miss the playoffs since 1991.
“We have one thought in mind,” Coughlin said, “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.”
The Redskins have a chance to play spoiler for the second straight game, having toppled Jacksonville in overtime last week to break a four-game skid. The main focus of attention in Washington is the play of Rex Grossman, who has had one good game and one so-so game in his three-week trial following the benching of Donovan McNabb.
“I’m getting a chance to prove that I can play and play at a high level,” Grossman said. “However it comes, I’ll take it.”