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Giants know their backs are against the wall

Their backs are against the wall and they know it.

"We just have to win," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "We have to win games."

The Giants moved one game behind Dallas and Green Bay (both teams are 9-5) in the wild-card chase after Monday night's 45-12 win over the Washington Redskins.

But even if the Giants (8-6) win their last two games - against Carolina and Minnesota - by no means are they a postseason shoo-in. They still need the Cowboys or Packers to lose at least one of their remaining games.

Although the Giants have shown a propensity for defensive lapses - see the 45-38 loss to Philadelphia at home Dec. 13 - they have another chance to prove the naysayers wrong Sunday against the Panthers.

The Giants find themselves in familiar territory - in desperate need of wins. Two seasons ago, they saved their season in Washington with a 24-17 victory that staved off an 0-3 start and helped jump-start their Super Bowl run.

On Monday night, they might have done the same.

The Giants dominated the Redskins in all facets: Eli Manning was 19-for-26 for 268 yards and three touchdowns and the defense looked sharp, totaling five sacks and three interceptions.

"Things got a little off for our team and we felt that and we had to step up," running back Ahmad Bradshaw said. "We know what we can do. We've been in this position. We've had to win games at the end of the season just to get to where we wanted to be. That's just how we're playing."

Thanks to all the criticism the team received during its midseason dive, the Giants have adopted an "us against the world" mentality. Whether their fans or the media believe they can pull this off and make the playoffs is irrelevant.

They may not be in control of their own destiny, but they aren't shying away from the challenge that lies ahead.

The Giants must find a way to beat a Panthers team that routed the Vikings on Sunday night. Carolina is third in the league in rushing yards (148.1) and fourth in passing yards allowed (192.6).

Last season, the Giants beat Carolina, 34-28, in overtime to clinch the NFC's No. 1 seed just weeks before the playoffs. But far more is at stake Sunday.

"Anybody that saw it . . . had to be impressed by it," Coughlin said of the Panthers' 26-7 win over Minnesota. "Very physical defensively, offensively, special teams, the running game, the young quarterback [Matt] Moore making plays . . . It's on tape. There isn't anything that you have to make up. There it is right for the players to see."

Monday's win undoubtedly bolstered the team's confidence heading into the final stretch of the season. But, as center Shaun O'Hara said: "This win only means something if we play like this next week."

Notes & quotes: Coughlin said he didn't have an injury update on several players, including Brandon Jacobs (teeth), Michael Boley (hand) and Hakeem Nicks (hamstring). Official word on their status for Sunday's game might not come until after the Giants' first practice of the week Thursday.

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