So tonight this ridiculous debate ends.
Will the Giants play to win, or will they use this as a bye week to get ready for Tampa and a live playoff game next week? Is a chance at history more important than a first-round wild-card playoff game? Which would be more remembered?
It’s silly, all of it.
There is only one way for the Giants to play tonight against the history-bound Patriots. TheyÃ‚Â must try to win. They must use the chance of beating an undefeated team, of spoiling its perfect season, of being remembered as the team that hung the blemish on New England, as motivation.
And with that, Tom Coughlin needs to keep in mind that he has a playoff game next week. So if Brandon Jacobs or Plaxico Burress hobbles, they sitÃ‚Â down. And if New England starts to pull away, Eli Manning and Co. sit down.Ã‚Â If theyÃ‚Â end upÃ‚Â getting beat 52-10, so be it.
But if they start out with the mindset that, oh well, we’re going to try to winÃ‚Â but not get hurt, then they will lose. If they try to play with the idea that this game doesn’t really matter, it’s a nuisance game, then they will lose big and they will risk injury. Have you ever seen teams playing games that don’tÃ‚Â count, with nothing at stake? TheyÃ‚Â usually lose, often big. I’ve seen it at the high school level for several years, since they started giving out these consolation bowl berths to teams that lose in the early rounds of the playoffs. Often the better team gets wiped out, because the game doesn’t mean anything to them.
Competitors can’t play that way. So the Giants need to be pumped up about this, and that has had to have been cultivated throughout the week. If they try to get pumped tonight, it will be too late.
New England will be pumped, and this might be theÃ‚Â Patriots’ easiest game of the yearÃ‚Â on the brain,Ã‚Â knowing that there is nothing at stake other than the perfect record. A loss doesn’t send them home. A loss might even make themÃ‚Â meaner and more ornery for the playoffs. PeopleÃ‚Â say there’s pressure on theÃ‚Â Pats and none on theÃ‚Â Giants. I disagree. I think this is a no-pressure game for both teams.
So if Coughlin really wants toÃ‚Â take a run at New England,Ã‚Â tonight is a night for onside kicks, flea-flickers, fake punts, double-reverses, hook-and-ladders. Empty the whole trick-play book. What have you got to lose? Nothing. Plus, it can’t hurt to have Tampa scoutingÃ‚Â you as you pull rabbits out of your hat, planting seeds for next week.
But if the Giants go into this game thinking, well, we’re going to try to win, but we’reÃ‚Â going to try to not get hurt, or we’re not going to use too much energy, or we’re only going to play the startersÃ‚Â for a half … well, that’s just asking for 52-10. And 52-10 could happenÃ‚Â whether they try or not, because the Patriots have a lot to say about it, and they are one of the best teams ever and the Giants are not.