Bob Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets
The Giants have one of the hottest quarterbacks in the playoffs, the running game finally has showed signs of life, and the pass defense has been at its best after a rough stretch late in the season. But as far as Justin Tuck is concerned, beating the Packers and getting to the NFC Championship Game will come down to one thing only: how well the Giants' defensive line plays Sunday in Green Bay.
"At the end of the day, I think the game will be won up front, whether it's by them or by us, so there's a lot of pressure on both sides," Tuck said Monday, the day after a 24-2 victory over the Falcons in a wild-card game at MetLife Stadium.
Tuck has very little question which line he thinks will come out on top, although he's not willing to put a Jason Pierre-Paul-style guarantee on it. Pierre-Paul said Sunday that the Giants will beat the Packers. But if you read between the lines with Tuck's comments, you get the feeling he's just as confident.
"We feel confident against any offensive line, considering the weapons we have on our defensive line," Tuck said. "That [Packers] line will be poised and ready. It's going to come down to who wants it most."
If the Giants' D-line plays up to the level of the last few weeks, it could spell an upset like the one in their last playoff game at Lambeau Field. Four years ago, the Giants, as 71/2-point underdogs, beat the favored Packers, 23-20, in overtime in the NFC Championship Game as the defense got the best of Brett Favre in frigid conditions.
The defensive line in the 2007 Super Bowl season was terrific in its own right. This year's has the chance to be even better, but only on one condition, Tuck said.
"The only way we're better than 2007 is if we go win the Super Bowl," he said.
Tuck believes the only way they win it is if the defensive line plays up to its lofty standards. Pierre-Paul thinks that can happen and wasn't shy about saying so. After the Falcons game, he said, "We're going to go out there and give all our effort, and we're going to walk away with the win."
Tuck's confidence is quieter, but he respects Pierre-Paul's right to say whatever he wants. So do several other teammates, although coach Tom Coughlin wishes Pierre-Paul had been more subtle.
"I would have said, 'We'll talk about [the Packers] after we've had a chance to understand this game,' " Coughlin said. "But that didn't take place. Let's keep things in perspective. Let's get started, maybe looking at some tape. Let's not get too carried away just yet. Wednesday might be a nice time for that."
Too late, Coach. The guarantee is out of the bag.
"It's the playoffs,'' Tuck said. "If it takes bulletin-board material to get you fired up for a game, there's something wrong with you."
Tuck said he won't talk to Pierre-Paul about toning down his remarks. Or to any other teammates, even in a locker room that is more vocal than we're used to seeing around here. After all, this isn't the Jets.
"This team seems more inclined to speak their mind, and I don't see anything wrong with it," Tuck said. "I don't think it's anything disrespectful. I don't think it's anything that warrants me going to say something to those guys. I encourage people telling the truth. If you feel that way, say it."
Safety Antrel Rolle, the most outspoken Giant of all, said he has no problem with Pierre-Paul's remarks.
"Whatever my teammates say, I don't care if they say something obnoxious, I don't care what they say, I'm backing them all the way," Rolle said. "That's the kind of guy I am. If JPP says it, we're going to go out there and we're going to get it done."
"We're probably playing the best up front we have all year," Tuck said.
And it can get even better.
"I think we're playing the best we've played this year, and it comes at a good time for us," Tuck said. "I hope we're looking at three more games to see what our best is going to be."