EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Seldom have the Giants been asked so much about a game other than their own.
When the Giants' locker room was open to the media today, reporters naturally wanted to know about the team's frame of mind entering its regular season finale Sunday in Washington. The Giants must win to have any chance of reaching the playoffs.
But their game is only the first half of the equation that must be completed for them to get in. The Giants will advance to postseason play only if their victory is accompanied by a Chicago Bears' triumph in Green Bay over the Packers.
The games will be played at the same time, with the kickoffs scheduled for 4:15 p.m. So, inquiring minds wanted to know, will the Giants be peeking at the scoreboard to see what's happening in Lambeau Field?
Coach Tom Coughlin won't be checking in on the Bears.
"Really, to be honest with you, we'll coach our guys to just play the game," Coughlin said. "Play this game, the game that we're in, pay no attention to anything else. All you can do is take care of your own business – there isn't a greater example than last night (when Minnesota upset the Eagles in Philadelphia). That was one of my statements this morning. There were many, but that was one of them: that you take care of your own business, give yourself every opportunity, take care of your own business and good things can happen to you. We'll play the game, be focused on the Washington Redskins, be focused on a divisional game on the road and whatever transpires will transpire."
The players are divided into three camps – those who say they will, those who insist they won't and those who don't want to admit it, but almost certainly will steal a few glances.
"I'm going to be looking at the scoreboard," defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. "If it's up there, I'm going to check it out. It's not going to affect the way I play, but I'm definitely interested to know what's going on in that other game."
"I don't know," quarterback Eli Manning said. "I'm not going to be looking for it, I'm not going to be eyeing it every second because we've got to keep our focus on what's going on. All we can focus on is what we can control. That's playing the Redskins on Sunday. If we don't handle our business, that doesn't mean anything, no matter what else happens. We have to go out there, we have to get back to playing good football. We haven't finished these last couple games and the Redskins are playing well. They played well these last few weeks. We have to be able to match the intensity and go out there expecting to play our best."
Guard Chris Snee doesn't really want to check the scoreboard, but concedes he will.
"I'll try not but honestly, I'll probably take a peek up," Snee said. "I'm sure that'll be emphasized, and it already has been today. Just worry about our game. This week will be a little bit different."
Safety Antrel Rolle said he's only interested in the game he's playing.
"I won't spend any time watching the scoreboard," Rolle said. "We had a chance to close it out on our own, and what happens with Chicago and Green Bay happens. I'm going out there and I'm playing. I'm trying to put on my best performance I've had all year and just try to be the player that I know I can be and make sure the troops are on board also. I know we're going to go out there and play great football."
Despite extreme disappointments the last two weeks in losses to Philadelphia and Green Bay, the Giants are confident they will play well, defeat the Redskins and finish the regular season with a 10-6 record.
Whether that will be good enough to reach the playoffs would then depend on the Bears. And how Chicago plays its game could become the wild card in determining whether the Giants will be … well, a wild card.
Philadelphia's loss last night means Chicago will be no worse than the No. 2 seed in the NFC postseason field. The Bears are guaranteed a first-round bye. They have a chance to climb to the top seed, but only if they win and favored Atlanta and New Orleans both lose at home. Because both the Falcons and Saints play at 1 p.m., the Bears will know at kickoff whether that is still in play for them.
Recent history provides an indicator the Giants are not going to like. In 2006, the Bears entered Week 17 having already clinched home field advantage with a 13-2 record. Their season finale then, as now, was against Green Bay. Coach Lovie Smith played most of their skill position regulars for just a half and trailed at halftime, 23-0. They lost, 26-7, to a Packers team that finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs. The Green Bay team the Bears visit Sunday will be in the postseason with a win.
That same weekend, the Giants went to Washington and defeated the Redskins, 34-28, to all but lock up a playoff berth with an 8-8 record.
The Giants know they can only control what happens in their game, so they can't expend too much time and energy worrying about what the Bears are doing.
"It's not going to make a difference for us," Manning said of the Chicago game. "The worst thing that could happen is all of the sudden we think we don't have a shot to make the playoffs and we don't prepare, we don't go and play our hardest and Chicago wins. That's what you can't let happen. We've got to go in expecting everything to work out for the best, feeling that Chicago is going to win for us. Go in with that attitude and if that doesn't work out, all we did was give it our best shot and it didn't work our way."
"It's not going to change the way I play," linebacker Keith Bulluck said. "I'm going to be out there playing just as hard, just like the rest of my teammates. They're going to show the scoreboard and they're going to show the score of the game, so it's not like we're going to turn away from it when they show it. We'll be taking care of our business, but at the same time, we know what's going on in the back of our minds."
*The Giants defeated the Redskins on Dec. 5 without contributions from Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith, who were inactive. It appears they will play the rematch without either of those standout receivers.
Smith is definitely out, having been placed on injured reserve on Dec. 17 after suffering a knee injury. Now Nicks, who earlier missed two games because of compartment syndrome in his left leg, has a broken left big toe.
"He can't play today," Coughlin said at a news conference this morning. How about Sunday? "I doubt it," Coughlin said.
Despite missing those games, Nicks leads the Giants with 79 receptions for 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Center Shaun O'Hara aggravated his Achilles injury in Sunday's loss in Green Bay and did not practice. "He's sore today and won't work," Coughlin said. "He did see the doctor yesterday and we'll have to see." If O'Hara can't play, Rich Seubert will move back to center, as he did for the six games O'Hara missed with a sprained foot.
Cornerback Corey Webster did not practice because of sore ribs, but Coughlin is hopeful he will return tomorrow.
Also missing practice were running back Ahmad Bradshaw (ankle), defensive ends Justin Tuck (chest) and Dave Tollefson (knee), defensive tackle Chris Canty (neck), Rolle (ankle) and return specialist Will Blackmon (knee).
Defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee) and safety Brian Jackson (knee) were limited.
*Tollefson suffered a sprained MCL against Philadelphia on Dec. 19. He hopes to return to the field this week.
"In talking with Shaun O'Hara, in the Super Bowl year he tore his, and he's like it's unbelievable that in that eighth and ninth day, you actually feel better," Tollefson said. "In my case, it was the eighth day and it's like wow, I actually do feel a lot better.
"I'm pushing for it (to return this week). I want to, and they're pushing back. I want to do it. I have to do whatever I can to get back as soon as possible."
*A scoring change in the Giants' victory over Minnesota on Dec. 13 has changed the season sack totals for Tuck and Umenyiora.
With 32 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Umenyiora was credited with a sack of Tarvaris Jackson. After reviewing the plays, the Elias Sports Bureau has determined that Umenyiora split the sack with Justin Tuck. As a result of the change, Tuck now has 11.5 sacks this season, while Umenyiora has 9.5.
*Cofield has been voted the winner of the 10th annual George Young Good Guy Award by the Giants' chapter of the Professional Football Writers of America.
The award, named for the late general manager of the Giants, is given annually to honor a Giants player for his consistent and outstanding cooperation with the writers who cover the team on a daily basis. Cofield distinguished himself by being constantly available to the media and for providing some of the most thoughtful, honest and insightful quotes in the locker room, no matter the topic or the circumstances.
In honor of the award, the Giants chapter of the PFWA will make a donation to Cofield's favorite charity.
Previous winners of the award were:
2009 -- DE Mathias Kiwanuka
2008 -- QB Eli Manning
2007 -- DE Justin Tuck
2006 – WR Plaxico Burress
2005 -- RB Tiki Barber
2004 -- QB Kurt Warner
2003 -- WR Ike Hilliard
2002 -- QB Kerry Collins
2001 -- OL Lomas Brown