It is second nature to call this the homestretch. The Giants have three vital, season-ending games in a row. What else would you call it? The thing is, though, almost never does an NFL team get to experience so much "home" in a homestretch.
The Giants will spend the rest of the regular season at MetLife Stadium, starting Sunday against the Redskins. Sure, the Christmas Eve game against the Jets technically is on the road, but who's kidding whom? When your playoff future is on the line and you don't have to travel, there's no place like home for the holidays.
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Three straight NFL games on familiar turf would be almost like the Yankees playing all of September in the Bronx.
"It's a tremendous opportunity for us, but it only means something if we take advantage of it," defensive end Chris Canty said after indoor practice Friday. "We don't have to travel, that's to our advantage. We have an opportunity to get a lot of rest. There will be no excuses."
Guard Mitch Petrus, who made his first start of the season Sunday night against the Cowboys, said offensive linemen feel a definite tangible effect of the home-field advantage. They don't have to deal with the crowd noise drowning out the quarterback's signals (which might or might not be a problem in the Jets game, depending on which team's fans wind up with the majority of the tickets). "We can use more of a hard count, a dummy count to try to draw the guy offside," Petrus said. "When you have to watch the ball to know when it's snapped, it makes you a tick late."
Other players cited the sheer comfort of staying in a home- game routine.
Then again, is it really such a hot deal for a passing team such as the Giants to be playing in New Jersey's fitful December wind? "That's what really concerns me more than anything else," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "You have to be able to run the ball a little bit. We're not where we want to be, but we're headed in the right direction."
Geographically, the players say they are right where they want to be. If the wind blows, so be it. "I think we're all kind of used to it," said wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who has to gauge the currents. "We know what we're up against. I think we'll do a good job of mixing the pass and run game up. Whatever we've got to go through, the other teams have got to go through the same thing, too."
Fellow receiver Victor Cruz said: "I've played in the Northeast for basically all my life, so I understand how the winds can be crazy and things like that. But it's something you've got to adjust to." He noted that this December has been the mildest in a long time, adding, "I don't want to jinx it."
Nor did they want to jinx this possibility by talking about it: If things go well in this homestretch, the Giants could have a fourth straight game at home -- to start the playoffs.