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Giants more concerned with winning NFC East crown than being kings of NY

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) passes

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) passes the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015. Credit: AP / Alex Brandon

If the Giants are going to have bragging rights over anything, they'd rather it be the NFC East than New York.

They also understand that to get the former, they'll likely need to secure the latter.

That's why they are downplaying the significance of the opponent in this week's game against the Jets in favor of the significance of the result. After a revolting performance against Washington on Sunday when a victory virtually could have locked up the division for them, the Giants are tied with Washington for what we generously refer to as the "best" record in the NFC East at 5-6. Now the Giants, who are behind Washington courtesy of a division-record tiebreaker, face a five-game stretch that could determine not only the fate of their season but the direction of the franchise.

"We need to win to stay where we are in the division," Eli Manning said. "It's an important one not just because it's Giants versus Jets and both teams share a stadium and the city and everything, but it's important because of what it means for our playoff hunt.''

"Guys, right now, I think we're all just focused on this being just another opponent that we need to beat," cornerback Prince Amukamara said on Monday. "We're still trying to win the division. I don't think it's about who we're playing."

Besides, Amukamara added: "If we need a rivalry to get us up, I feel like [Sunday against Washington] we should have been more amped than for any game on our schedule. I don't think we need for it to be a rivalry for us to get ourselves [excited]."

Need it or not, like it or not, that's what they're getting. Sunday's game, like the last time the two teams met in the regular season, likely will be a win-or-else proposition for both teams fighting to get into the playoffs. The victor still will have a shot. The loser's chances are unlikely.

It's a crossroads at MetLife Stadium.

That's what happened on Christmas Eve in 2011, when the Giants beat the Jets, 29-14, on the back of Victor Cruz's 99-yard touchdown catch-and-run.

"I remember the feeling, the atmosphere," Amukamara said. "We were on the road and that was one of the best performances we had."

The Giants didn't lose another game that season, reeling off six straight victories, including the Super Bowl. The Jets, coming off a pair of AFC title game appearances, were reduced to watching the playoffs, and they haven't been back since.

And four years later, they have a different quarterback and new coach -- the two symbols of stability in an ever-changing NFL -- while the Giants were able to retain theirs.

That's what this game has done in the past -- and possibly could do again. "It's going to be a good test for us," Manning said. "They have a great defense, their offense is playing well and scoring points, and we have to play well."

It's something the Giants did not do Sunday, with Amukamara saying the Giants were "disgusted" by the first half of the game. It left Manning having to defend the team's desire.

"Of course we want to make the playoffs," he said when it was suggested that it did not look that way Sunday. "We're fighting our tails off and trying to do it."

"Inconsistency is our biggest problem, and we're trying to fix that," Amukamara said. "When we're on, we're on, and when we're off, we're off. We just have to be consistent with that light switch."

Perhaps facing the Jets again will induce the Giants to do just that.

New York Sports