Eight Points = Loss

State of emegency? Not quite. In fact not even close. The Giants lost to the Cowboys last night 20-8 and yes, they lost to the Eagles the week before. But they are still 11-3. They are still already in the playoffs. And they are still 99% of the way to gettng a first round bye.

Some people, actually many people over the next week will forget that the Giants already clinched the NFC East. They will forget that they are already in the postseason picture. And they will focus on the idea that “the Giants are backing into the playoffs.” The most overrated assessment in professional sports.

Who cares if a teams backs? Who cares if they go sideways, upside down, or forward into the playoffs? If you are in the playoffs, no one cares how you got there, just getting in is important. And the Giants have already accomplished that.

You could be the hottest team in the league and suffer an untimely turnover in the first round and get knocked out. Or you could be the coldest team that gets that turnover and suddenly you’re on your way to the next round. Football is crazy like that and because of the one and done playoff format, it doesn’t matter if you play perfect football for 59:59 of a game. In that :01, your season can come to an end.

I remember in the 2000 when the Yankees for the most part didn’t win a game in September. Once October came, they went to work and were crowned champions shortly after.

In 2006, the Detroit Tigers won 19 of their last 50 games, blew the division on the last day of the season, and were faced with the Yankees on the road in a best-of-five. The Yankees smoked them in Game 1 and the Tigers came back to win three straight, then sweep Oakland before losing in the World Series.

I understand that those are baseball analogies and we are talking about football, but it just goes to show that it doesn’t matter how you find a way into the second season in any sport because once you get there, anything can happen.

It’s hard to look away from the ’07 Giants who nearly beat New England in Week 17 and then ripped off four wins in the playoffs as underdog in all of them before becoming champions. But that was last year and that was a different team in a different season. Each team is unique and has it’s own path, so to compare the ’08 G-Men to last year’s team is unfair considering the season has yet to run its course.

But after Sunday night’s game, I applaud the Dallas Cowboys for their efforts and for putting the off the field incidences behind them to take down the Giants at home and enhance their playoff chances. They could have folded under the pressure from media and after a devastating loss to the Steelers, but they showed up, played hard, and earned a critical win. As much as I despise the Cowboys entire organization, I have to say that they showed a lot of heart with the win last night.

As for the New York Football Giants. You can rank that game underneath the losses to Philly and Cleveland as their third worst game of the year. The Cowboys were the better team last night, but the Giants have showed more consistency over the course of the season and that is why they have already been awarded a postseason berth. But the Giants did not by any means put themselves in a position to succeed and when you score eight points in a football game, you aren’t winning, ever.

There are three reasons why the Giants lost to the Cowboys, aside from the simple fact that the Cowboys wanted it more.

The No Huddle.
Clearly something was wrong with the Giants offensive line. They were getting burned badly on nearly every play and the times that Eli Manning had some time to set, it wasn’t much time at all. Even Al Michaels and John Madden brought up the option of the no huddle a full drive before Tom Coughlin decided to use it. And what happened? The Giants went down the field with ease, resulting in a field goal. Had they gone to this plan earlier it could have possibly changed the outcome of the game.

The Offensive Line.
It’s hard to get on these guys. It took them all the way until Week 15 to finally have a bad game, so they get a free pass in my book, but really they are the sole reason for the lack of offense. People will say it’s because of the absence of Plaxico Burress, but unless Plaxico was going to be blocking the defensive line for Eli tonight, there is nothing that the wide receiver could have done.

The Injuries.
The Giants were missing multiple starters tonight and a few more were injured during the game and while it sucks, it happens and it’s part of the game. But if Tom Coughlin is going to have Brandon Jacobs sit out, when he most likely could have played, you might as well have Eli sit out to and prevent him from getting hurt because if you are going to put your team at a disadvantage before the opening kickoff, then why even play? Sure, the Giants have already clinched a playoff spot and it is better to rest Jacobs, but then why not rest other key players as well?

The bottom line is those Giants fans that are worried need to settle down. The Giants are in the playoffs. The Cowboys had to fight to stay alive. At 11-3 the Giants are as close to guaranteed a first round bye as you can be before clinching it and they will have a week off before a playoff game to rest their injured players. The team was 11-1 and had winning streaks of four and seven before losing the past two games. No team is going to go undefeated the entire season (including playoffs), so people who thought that was possible need to get that notion out of their head.

A year ago the team was 9-4 after getting embarrassed at home by Minnesota. The following week they lost to Washington and at 9-5, they needed a win at Buffalo to secure a playoff spot, considering the fact that undefeated New England loomed in Week 17. We all know what happened after the Buffalo game and into the playoffs.

What I am trying to say is that every team has its bumps in the road. Last year the Giants’ bumps came in Week 1 (Dallas) and Week 2 (Green Bay) and resurfaced against Minnesota and Washington. In 2006, they were 6-2 before finishing 8-8 and losing in the first round. This season problems didn’t arise until this week and last and they should be lucky for that. Take for example New England who went 16-0 last season before limping by Jacksonville and San Diego, only to get upset by the Giants. The G-Men still have two games left on the schedule and a very important home game against the Panthers on Sunday Night Football.

The Giants are going to be the one or two seed in the NFC and two bad weeks of football doesn’t take away what they did in the previous 12 games and doesn’t take away from what they can do the next two weeks and into January and possibly February.

I have to say the Cowboys finally impressed me tonight even if they didn’t get the complete Giants “A” team. Their offense played good enough to win and their defense is playing better than it has played in a decade. And while I am not sure if the Cowboys will make the playoffs or win their first round game, there is nothing better than hype between a Giants/Cowboys game and it would be an incredible NFC Championship if it plays out that way.

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