Few NFL teams rule the road like the Giants.
Since the start of the 2007 season – which ended with the first of their two most recent Super Bowl victories – the Giants are 28-15 (.651) as visitors. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the league's second-best road record in that span, behind only New England (30-14). During that same period, the Giants are 25-18 (.581) in Giants and MetLife stadiums, the league's 16th-best home record.
The Giants are one of just five teams with a better road record than home record in those five-plus seasons. The others are Oakland, Miami, Philadelphia and Washington (interesting, isn't it, that three of the five are NFC East teams)?
So what gives?
"I think this team is so built on the notion of backs against the wall that I think sometimes we're kind of relaxed at home a little bit and that's hurt us in games," said defensive end and captain Justin Tuck. "We still feel very confident about our home crowd and how we're able to win games at home. But we've had a little bit more success on the road in recent history."
"I was thinking about it the other day," running back Ahmad Bradshaw said. "I don't know what it is at home, but away, we feel like the pressure is on us and we play good under pressure. But at home, we just feel like a lot of things are just going to come to us. It's not like we don't work as hard or we don't play as hard at home. I just feel like we get lackadaisical and we feel like it's going to be handed to us."
Dig deeper and the numbers still aren't where the Giants would like them to be. They are 5-5 in their last 10 regular-season home games. In three seasons in MetLife Stadium, they are 11-8 as the home team (plus victories as visitors over the Jets and in the NFC Wild Card Game). The Giants' record in NFC East games in MetLife is 2-5.
That last fact is particularly worth pondering this week, because on Sunday they face their division rivals, the Washington Redskins. In 2011, Washington tacked one of those five losses on the Giants by a 23-10 count on Dec. 18. The Giants didn't score a touchdown until 33 seconds remained in the game. That, coupled with a Redskins opening-day victory in FedEx Field, gave Washington its first sweep of the Giants since 1999.
The Giants can ill afford another division loss, having already fallen to Dallas and Philadelphia. It is their first 0-2 start in NFC East play since 1996, when they lost their first four division games in Dan Reeves' final season as coach.
"We're 0-2 in the division," coach Tom Coughlin said. "If our expectations are to get anything done, we need to get going in the division."
With a loss, the Giants would drop their first two division homes games for the second year in a row, something they hadn't done before last season since 2003.
"You want to play well at home, you want to play well all the time," guard Chris Snee said, "but more importantly, I think the focus now is that we're 0-2 in the division and we're playing a team that beat us twice last year. So home or away, we need this game."
"We have to get a quality win in the division this week," said wide receiver Victor Cruz, "and I think this week is a game that's a must-win for us, especially in the division, and to continue our positive play throughout the last two weeks."
The Giants are 2-1 at home this season, losing to Dallas on opening night before beating Tampa Bay and Cleveland. But the Giants trailed by at least 14 points in each of those games and when they rallied to beat the Buccaneers and the Browns, it was the first time in their history they overcame such large deficits to win back-to-back home games.
So, uh, what gives?
"We've just been starting slow at home," Bradshaw said. "Sometimes, we just feel like the crowd is going to keep us in it and we just get lackadaisical on different things, techniques and different things. We just keep fighting and let the crowd bring us back into it and just fight for our crowd, fight for our home territory."
Tuck has a different, tongue-in-cheek, kind of explanation.
"We feel so confident in Eli (Manning) that we try to put him in these positions that make it a little tough on him," Tuck said, "so this week we might try to start 21 down and see if he can bring us back again."
The Giants might want to avoid living on that edge. Although they lead the NFC East with a 4-2 record, they are 4-0 outside the division and 0-2 in it. With games against Washington and Dallas up next, their lead will evaporate if that trend continues.
"Obviously, you wouldn't want to have that (an 0-2 NFC East record), but the most important thing is your overall record," Manning said. "That's what you can control, and right now, we're in a good spot, we've still got a lot of divisional games and we've still got a lot of football left. Obviously, when you play in the division, those games are very, very important. Hopefully, we can get a win this week."
"This is extremely crucial," safety Antrel Rolle said. "We're 0-2 in the division and we need this win bad for the sake of our team and for the sake of our division and where we're trying to get to, which is the postseason."
To do that, they're likely going to have to take advantage of playing at home, as so many other teams do.
"It's part of the M.O. of what you would think a truly great football team or dynasty football team is about," Tuck said. "We know that and we've definitely got to come out and get the job done this Sunday. There's no question about it. This team has been kind of a thorn in our side, especially at home. So we've just got to make sure that we do our due diligence to make sure that we come out and get a win at home."
*The Giants today declared four players out of the game Sunday because of injuries: defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (quadriceps), linebacker Jacquian Williams (knee), safety Kenny Phillips (knee) and running back Da'Rel Scott (knee).
*Linebacker Michael Boley (hip) and Bradshaw (hand/hamstring) are questionable. Bradshaw didn't practice today after working on a limited basis yesterday.
"He was a little sore today," Coughlin said. "We're trying to get him to a point, game day, where he's healthy."
Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (foot/knee), cornerback Corey Webster (hand/hamstring) and running back Andre Brown (concussion) are probable. Nicks was limited in practice and the other two players practiced fully.
"He's fought through everything," Coughlin said of Nicks. "Every day he comes back out and he tells me he feels good about it and so he gets probably half the reps. So he's excited and anxious and hopefully it will be consistent; physically, there will be no setbacks."
Nicks said, "I feel like practicing on it is the start to breaking it back in and getting better. I took that approach this week and got the green light to do it; it's definitely been getting better."
*Coughlin gave his customary "we'll see" response when asked if defensive tackle Chris Canty will be activated. Canty, on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, has practiced all week. The Giants have until 4 p.m. tomorrow to activate Canty so he can play Sunday.
"He's in outstanding shape, condition-wise," Coughlin said. "He hasn't been hit, obviously, but we'll come up with the right formula (if he plays)."
*The Giants and Redskins are tied for third in the NFL in scoring – each team has scored 178 points. But the Giants have allowed 114 points, while Washington has given up 173.
*The Giants have faced the Redskins more than any other team and lead the regular-season series, 91-63-4. The teams split their two postseason games, with the Redskins wining in 1943 and the Giants in the 1986 NFC Championship Game. Before they were swept by Washington last year, the Giants had won six in a row and nine of their last 10 games vs. the Redskins.
*The Giants have won six of eight home games vs. Washington in the Tom Coughlin era. They lost December home games to the Redskins in 2007 and 2011 – the seasons they won the Super Bowl.