The Giants aren't facing just the 49ers this week. Tom Coughlin made that clear to the team yesterday morning. It's them against the world.
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"Nobody gives us a chance to win," Coughlin said. "We'll see."
It's a mentality that worked well for the Giants in the past. They have relished the back-against-the-wall underdog role for the last several years, whether it has been real or manufactured. The Giants believe they are perpetually dissed, something that not even a win in last year's NFC title game against these 49ers and a victory in the Super Bowl could quell.
And they are loving every minute of it.
"I think if I was a betting man and didn't have anything to do with this team, I would probably put them as favorites, too," Justin Tuck said, feeding into the 49ers mystique.
"That's fine by me," guard Chris Snee said of being doubted. "They're the home team. They have the better record. Their team is ranked higher offensively and defensively. They should be the favorites.
"But that's not going to stop us from going in there and giving it our all."
The only time in recent history that the Giants were considered the team to beat in the NFL was probably late in 2008, when they started 11-1 as defending champs. That didn't work out in the end. Since then, most of their successes have come as surprises . . . at least to the many legions who turned their backs on the Giants.
Some Giants refused to really sell their lines about being overlooked and potentially overwhelmed. "We're a great team as well as they're a great team, so may the best man win come Sunday," Antrel Rolle said.
"You can only prove it with your pads," Jason Pierre-Paul said. "At the end of the year, we were in the playoffs and we went to the championship game. That's the way you prove it. We don't care what anybody says. That's how we play football."
But those who have been around for longer recognize the familiarity of playing up the underdog angle. The 49ers are favored by 5 points.
"We've thrived under that," Snee said. "The fact that we've had success with that, why not do the same?"
Coughlin offered a theory as to why so many people apparently believe the Giants have no shot on Sunday. "Probably because they think the other team is playing very well," he said.
They are. The 49ers are 4-1, are coming off a game in which they were the first team in NFL history to rush and pass for more than 300 yards, and won their last two by 34-0 and 45-3.
Not everyone is buying into the "everyone," though. Niners coach Jim Harbaugh called Coughlin's assertion that nobody believes the Giants can win "an exaggeration, a big one."
It may be an exaggeration, but it's probably not as big as Harbaugh would like it to be as both teams jostle for the high terrain of disrespect. The Giants may flourish from that position, but it doesn't mean they enjoy having their Super Bowl victory questioned. Although they try to use and channel that frustration, they wouldn't mind a pat on the back now and then.
"I think we like to have people say that this football team has proven us wrong a lot of times and maybe we should give them the benefit of the doubt that at the end of the year they are probably going to be right there where they have been a few times," Tuck said. "We would like for you guys [the media] to say that."
Coughlin wouldn't. Asked how he can tell that nobody thinks the Giants can win, the coach who knows the buttons to push on this team said he could "just sense it."
Then he added with a smirk: "I'm hoping that way."