The NFC Playoff picture sorted out somewhat on Sunday with the New York Giants monster road win in Carolina over the Panthers. My comments in the picks section on Friday stated that the loser of this game would basically be done as far as a playoff spot would go in the NFC, and I will stand by that now that the Panthers sit at 6-7 with three games to go. It was a big win for the Giants, who broke a four-game losing streak and took a lot of heat off of head coach Tom Coughlin, who was being talked out of town by the local and national media.
New York did have the benefit of playing a Panthers team that was about as banged up on defense that you could be, and also playing against a quarterback in Chirs Weinke who was making his first start in more than four years. Those things aside, the Giants played a very solid game and deserve credit for not tanking the remainder of the season after a 6-2 start. This team has too much talent to even be fighting for a playoff spot, but despite the win to put them at 7-6, they still have to win out to hold off the Falcons and Eagles and ensure a wild card birth. This is assuming that Dallas maintains their one game lead and eventually wins the division.
One major key for New York was the play of Eli Manning, who had his second straight solid game. Sunday he put up a QB rating of 97 while throwing for 172 yards on 17-for-33 passing. He also threw three TD’s, and over the last two games has thrown five TD’s with no interceptions. A far cry of the struggles he had during the first three games of the Giants losing streak. Manning, along with running back Tiki Barber, and loud mouth wide out Plaxico Burress are the three key offensive players that will need to carry the Giants to the playoffs. Sunday all three had solid games, with Barber going for 112 yards and Burress catching 4 passes for 77 yards and a TD.
If the Giants are going to make the playoffs, this is the week that they have to have one. Sunday they play host to the Eagles, a team that despite not having Donovan McNabb has played well the last two weeks with Jeff Garcia at quarterback leading the way. The Giants will be favored and expected to win, and they should win with a game plan and effort like Sunday. A loss would all but end their season, and could end Coughlin’s reign as Giants coach.