Sunday night's game between the Giants and the Packers can stand on its own significance. Two division-leading teams, the past two Super Bowl winners, meeting in a rematch of the playoffs from a season ago. But Thursday's results have lent the game added consequence, at least for the Giants.
The Redskins' 38-28 win over the Cowboys left those two teams with 5-6 records, 11/2 games behind the Giants in the NFC East. It also essentially made the division a three-team race going into the final month, with the Giants' next opponent after the Packers being the hottest quarterback and team of the trio: Robert Griffin III and the Redskins.
"We're well aware of what happened [Thursday]," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Friday. "Quite frankly, it doesn't make it any easier."
A Giants win over the Packers would give them a two-game lead over the Redskins and Cowboys with five games remaining. A loss, though, would set the stage for the Redskins to overtake first place with a win over the Giants Dec. 3 because of a better division record. None of the Giants want to go into a game against RG3 -- the rookie quarterback who scared the argyle socks off them in Week 7 -- with those kind of stakes.
"We definitely want to keep an advantage over both teams," safety Kenny Phillips said of the Redskins and Cowboys. "To win this game and hopefully win the game next week, it will put us where we want to be."
The Giants have a knack for not going that route. They lost their late lead in the division last season before regaining it in the final game against the Cowboys. That's not the way they want this season to play out. They control their own destiny now. They'd like to control it for the rest of the year.
"Take care of your own business," Coughlin said. "That's what I learned a long, long time ago. Take care of your own business."
"If we do what we're supposed to do, all of that stuff will be irrelevant," linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said of the jostling for position. "That's why we can say that the focus is on us. Let's make sure that we're doing everything we need to do. Stack wins up and ride into the playoffs. That's what the goal is."
Notes & quotes: The Packers will be without one of their most dynamic defensive players Sunday as linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring) has been ruled out. Matthews leads the Packers with nine sacks and returned an interception for a touchdown last season against the Giants. It's a huge loss for the Packers, but one the Giants downplayed. "They're no different," running back Ahmad Bradshaw said of the Packers without Matthews. "They played Detroit last week without him and they did what they had to do. I don't know if it's any different without him. They're a good team." . . . Linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, whose family was displaced from their Hoboken townhouse during superstorm Sandy, said he and his wife and daughter have moved back in while cleaning and that repairs continue . . . Wide receiver Domenik Hixon (ankle) and linebacker Jacquian Williams (knee) have been ruled out.