Giants trying to get back on playoff track

Posted Dec. 30, 2011, at 9:01 p.m.

How long has it been since the Giants made the playoffs?

As of Sunday’s kickoff it will have been 1,085 days since they lost to the Eagles at home in the divisional round on Jan. 11, 2009. So much has happened since then. The stadium where that game was played was knocked down and replaced. Plaxico Burress went to jail for almost two years and was released and came back to play football. An NFL lockout loomed, transpired, and was resolved. Brett Favre has retired three times.

“It’s been a long stretch,” tackle Kareem McKenzie said of the two fruitless, restless, inactive postseasons the Giants have had to watch from home. “No one would have imagined that.”

The Giants on Sunday will try not to make it three straight years without a playoff appearance. A win will get them back to where they were for four consecutive seasons in an era when the postseason seemed to be preordained.

“When I first came in, I was in the playoffs every year,” Brandon Jacobs said of his first four seasons. “It has been a very long time for this organization that has not shown that New York logo in the playoffs. That is what we are striving for and what we need to get.”

Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks was drafted by a Giants team that had won a Super Bowl and gone 12-4 for the top seed in the NFC playoffs in the two years before he arrived. Of course he figured he’d have played in a postseason game by now. He has not.

“I hear from older guys all the time that playoffs are hard to come by so when you get the opportunity take full advantage of it,” Nicks said. “The opportunity is available for us right now, better than it has been since I’ve been here, so we just have to do it.”

Some like Nicks and veteran David Baas who played his whole career with the 49ers and did not play in many meaningful Week 17 games nevermind playoffs, see this as a first opportunity to reach the postseason. Others, like McKenzie, know it could be their last.

The right tackle will be a free agent at the end of this season. A 32-year-old veteran of 11 seasons who saw the way the Giants unceremoniously parted with veterans Shaun O’Hara and Rich Seubert and how tepid the other 31 teams were to sign them, he’s aware of what is at stake for him and the team.

“Given the nature of the business and the changes that happen from year to year, if you have an opportunity it’s best that you seize it,” he said.

The Giants have that chance. While this technically isn’t a playoff game against the Cowboys, the stakes are basically the same. The winner moves on. The loser does not. The Giants have not played in a game like that since, well, the playoff loss to the Eagles after the 2008 season.

“It seems like years, which it is years, but it seems like a lot longer than it actually has been,” Justin Tuck said. “Obviously that’s why we play, to get an opportunity to play for the Super Bowl. To have that opportunity, you have to make the playoffs.”

They’ve gone two seasons without that opportunity. They’re not looking to make it three. That hasn’t happened since the Dan Reeves coached Giants missed out in 1994, ’95 and ’96.

“It would mean a lot,” Nicks said of advancing to next weekend. “I think that’s what we’re shooting for as a team, that’s our team goal. Every guy in this locker room wants to go deep into the playoffs and beyond that. And we control it. We control our own destiny. We have to prepare well, play well, and go out there and do it.”

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