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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

November swan song or concerto for Giants?

New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin watches

New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin watches during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C. (Sept. 20, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

Tom Coughlin has had quite enough of our nagging and our negativism and our incessant nattering about the Giants' least favorite month of the year.

"I am really tired about answering all the questions about what's wrong,'' the coach said yesterday, 10 days before he officially escapes November. "I'd rather we play a game and play it well and answer the questions that way.''

Well, that puts him on the same page with fans, who though they thus far have given Coughlin and Eli Manning the well-earned benefit of the doubt, understand that this is a pivotal moment in the 2012 campaign.

The Giants have lost their last two. The second-place Cowboys have won their last two entering today's game against the Redskins. Manning is slumping, and is 13-19 in November, with two full weeks to ponder that grim stat.

Enter the Packers, who have won five games in a row and might vaguely recall that on Jan. 15, the Giants visited Green Bay and vaporized their hopes of repeating as NFL champions.

So, no matter how true it is that the Giants have bounced back from worse situations before -- most recently 11 months ago -- Sunday night is the time to alter the narrative on what has become a running tragic comedy.

(Did you catch my clever tweet a couple of weeks back suggesting a joke Christmas gift for Giants fans? A 2013 calendar with November ripped out! Get it? LOL!)

"We know we're in a little bit of a funk,'' receiver Victor Cruz said, "but it's a brand new season for us, we feel like, and we just want to attack it head-on.''

Good idea, because the first four games in December feature the following minefield: Redskins, Saints, Falcons, Ravens, three on the road.

Living on the edge down the stretch, as the Giants famously did last season, is nice for dramatic tension but is a dangerous proposition over time.

If the Giants do get past the Packers, they will be in fine shape, most likely needing only to split their next four before Dec. 30, when the Eagles might concede before the opening kickoff to avoid further embarrassment.

"I think it can definitely be a make-or-break game,'' safety Antrel Rolle said.

That's all talk, though. Time to play.

"I agree with [Coughlin],'' Cruz said. "I'm kind of anxious to get back on that field and play some football again. It feels like forever since we've been out there.''

Tell us about it.

"It's a tremendous opportunity for us, and it's got a familiar feel for our football team,'' defensive tackle Chris Canty said. "But it only matters if you take advantage of the opportunity.''

That could go either way. As defensive end Justin Tuck said, the Giants have "played crappy football'' their past two games, making this "a great measuring stick for us to see where we are.''

Normally that sort of week-to-week temperature-taking is best avoided by NFL teams, fans and journalists, even though it usually is impossible to resist.

But in this case it's fair. Lose and the Giants will spend another annoying week answering everyone's deep -- and legitimate -- questions. Win and they can study RG3 tape in peace.

"This is a huge game,'' Coughlin said. "It's a huge game for them. It's a huge game for us. I'm not going to stand here and talk to you about motivation, but I can give you a half an hour on it.''

Better he and his players give us three hours on it Sunday.


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