The Giants had a lot of big wins down the stretch last season. Some were thrilling, others dominant, and the one at the very end led to a nice silver trophy.
But in the days after the team completed its season with parades, confetti and other celebrations, there was a feeling that the biggest win of the season might not have even involved the Giants.
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Instead, it might have been the 49ers beating the Saints in the divisional round. That kept the Giants from having to go through New Orleans on their way to the Super Bowl, a route that several players admitted at the time likely would have derailed their run.
The Saints had beaten the Giants, 49-24, in the Superdome earlier that season. In 2009, they trounced the Giants, 48-27. In four games against the Giants in his career, Drew Brees is 4-0, has thrown 11 touchdown passes and has never thrown an interception.
The 2012 Saints are not the juggernaut they were last season, though, and at 5-7, they are much less invincible than they seemed 13 months ago. Brees' streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass ended at 54 last week, the offensive line has suffered injuries, the threat of suspension for his role in the bounty investigation has lingered over linebacker Jonathan Vilma since he came off PUP, and, of course, coach Sean Payton has been barred from contact with the team for a year.
More significantly in this game, they're coming to New Jersey and not playing the Giants in their protective shell of a dome. The Giants would like to prove Bruce Springsteen right Sunday and show that it really will be hard to be a Saint in the City.
"We hope there's a difference," Osi Umenyiora said of the change in geography and the possibility of weather playing a factor. "We're hoping for it to be as cold as it can possibly be this weekend . . . Rain. All that good stuff, man, so they won't be able to operate quite as effectively as they do when they're indoors."
Even the Giants' offense is looking forward to facing the Saints in an outdoor setting. While the conditions at the Superdome are ideal as far as temperature and lack of wind and fast turf, it's the acoustics that got to some of the Giants in their recent trips there.
"That's a tough place to play," guard Chris Snee said. "It's very tough. It's nice that we don't have to go down there . . . You eliminate the crowd noise, obviously. Hopefully, we're able to get our crowd into it as they were in their home games early."
The Saints are expecting the Giants to be looking for revenge, a dish best served about as cold as a December evening in East Rutherford. Forecasts suggest temperatures won't be as frigid as they could be -- in the mid-40s -- with a chance of rain.
"We're certainly aware of the fact that the last two times we played were in our building," Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said. "They're looking forward to getting us to drink their water and play on their turf in front of their crowd."
No matter how bad the weather gets, the Giants still have to face Brees and the Saints' high-powered, versatile offense. The unit has struggled lately, including last week against the Falcons, when Brees' streak ended. ("I was hoping we would be able to break his touchdown streak, but obviously he got that broke," Chase Blackburn said. "I would really love if we can do that again.")
That game was played in a dome, so even the cushiness of indoor football is no guarantee for the Saints.
Neither, of course, is the possibility of inclement weather.
"The quarterback is from Purdue," coach Tom Coughlin pointed out. "I think he's played in cold weather."