NFL Playoff Picture: Sketching Out the Road to a Berth for the New York Giants

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NFL Playoff Picture: Sketching Out the Road to a Berth for the New York Giants
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Tom Coughlin keeping up morale.

"Finish" was Tom Coughlin's message to his players last season as they embarked on their road to the playoffs, a theme that motivated the team to win six straight games, including Super Bowl 46.

So what's the mantra down the stretch this season for his slumping 6-4 first-place New York Giants?

Answer: “Build the bridge.’’

Coughlin, the consummate motivator, explains his methods to Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post:

When we have something as powerful as those (themes) then that becomes an easy way for us to recall exactly what this is about for us. We really weren’t pleased with the way we finished for years before last year. We really believed that those six games last year were emblematic of what we believe in and how we like to play and we wanted to bring those things forward.

The dangling of the proverbial carrot hasn't stopped Coughlin from keeping his guys in check, as he did when he publicly called out his defense for playing "soft" in their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 4 (h/t Jorge Castillo, The Star-Ledger).

His "soft" comment was overanalyzed, but it's Coughlin's unapologetic dichotomy of patting his guys on the back and kicking them in the behind that propels his teams to do great things.

Remember the little chat he had with Justin Tuck late last year, and the great results that ensued? Rest assured that Coughlin is doing and saying the right things in order to give the Giants a playoff berth.

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The coach told Ian O'Connor of ESPNNewYork.com on Monday that his principle message to the team of "build the bridge" still resonates. "I believe in these guys," Coughlin said, "and I believe they want what I want. It's just frustrating for everybody right now."

Looking ahead, the Giants have too much star power to not turn things around.

This Giants team is not a group that has overachieved and are now coming back down to earth. They are a collection of stars who have yet to truly reach their potential—if forced to choose, fans would much rather take the latter.

The Giants have too much pride to make excuses, but I'll make one for them—the hurricane.

Superstorm Sandy was a devastating disaster that brought the tri-state area to its knees, and it undoubtedly derailed the Giants organization, along with hundreds of thousands of others.

Fortunately, the Giants are the best-equipped team in the league to absorb such an unpredictable event and not let it knock them out.

Namely Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Ahmad Bradshaw and the entire defensive line have been underperfoming and inconsistent lately, but this is merely a standing eight count.

The bye week has arrived at a very opportune time, and it gives the Giants a great chance to refocus on how to game-plan for their remaining schedule.

The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE
Eli Manning and Victor Cruz hope to get back on the same page for the remaining six games in time to qualify for the playoffs.

If the playoffs started today, the G-Men would be a fourth seed, and they would face a fifth-seeded Green Bay Packers.

As fate would have it, the Packers are the first of six remaining opponents for the Giants, as the playoff race begins to tighten.

You can take it to the bank when I tell you that the key to a playoff berth for the Giants hinges on the productivity of one man—No. 88.

Here's why.

If Nicks can return to last season's form for these final six games, then the domino effect will take place.

Cruz becomes even scarier as a slot receiver, Eli goes back to picking apart defenses and Bradshaw will be more effective because teams will be defending the big play and subsequently vulnerable to the run.

If that kind of offensive resurrection happens, the defense will naturally go back to flying around free and loose as they were at this time last year, when they were knocking quarterbacks out of games left and right.

A resurgence from Nicks will give a timely spark to the entire team.

Starting on November 25, four of the final six teams that Big Blue faces down the stretch were playoff teams last year—Packers, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens.

Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE
Hakeem Nicks will need to return to the open field and touchdown threat the Giants are used to in order to make a playoff push.

The Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles are the other two teams, and even though they didn't make the playoffs last year and they aren't having a lot of success this year, you can never overlook division rivals.

There you have it. Those are the six teams standing in the way of the 6-4 Giants, who are trying to hold up their end of the bargain with Coughlin and  "build the bridge" to Super Bowl 47 in New Orleans.

 

Prediction

Giants come out of the bye and their slump to go 4-2 to finish out the season, and they get hot at the right time heading into the playoffs.

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