It's now or never for both Giants and Saints
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Monday's loss to the Redskins trimmed the Giants' division lead to a single game over two NFC East rivals, marked their third loss in four games and was the second time in that span that they blew a fourth-quarter lead.
Tensions were visibly high this week as Tom Coughlin declared that the Giants "literally" need to win their four remaining games to get into the playoffs.
What does Eli Manning think of all this?
"In these situations, this is fun, this is exciting, and that's how you have to look at it," the quarterback said. "It's not a situation where you say, 'Oh, we've got to win' and you get nervous or you get tight or you get worried. Right now, we're playing to try to make it to the playoffs and extend our season, and these are all big games, and they're all important. We've got to enjoy this opportunity."
Coughlin backed off his statement a bit later in the week and softened the desperation of his four-win mandate. "We needed to win all 16," he said. "What would you expect me to say? . . . I expect us to play well. That's the objective. That's the goal. I don't know why it wouldn't be."
Although the Giants could make the playoffs without running the table on the rest of the season, his message of urgency was received by the players. And it's sunk in.
"It's the reality of the situation," Mathias Kiwanuka said. "It doesn't matter who says it. That's the situation we're in. To accomplish our goals, we have to win these last four games."
"It's not the easiest thing in the world you want to hear," Victor Cruz said. "But we've been in this position before, where we've had to win games to continue to stay alive for the playoffs. We're no strangers to that, so we've just got to be able to stay focused and get these wins under our belt."
The Giants' four remaining opponents once were daunting, but recent circumstances have made them less so. The Falcons and Ravens -- the next two opponents after Sunday -- could have their postseason positions already decided by the time the Giants get to town. In that case, human nature would seem to make those games at least a few ticks easier. The finale is against the Eagles, a team that has always played the Giants well, but they could be fielding a squad of backups playing for a coach in his final game with the franchise.
That leaves the Saints, with their faint playoff pulse, as possibly the most dangerous team left for the Giants to face.
"When it's crunch time and you're in a situation where it's a must-win and you have to play well and you can't slip up, the great teams are able to come through," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "We want to be one of those teams. We understand this is one of those situations."
Both teams should.