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Giants play to be the best they can be, not to be spoilers

Eli Manning reacts on the sidelines in the

Eli Manning reacts on the sidelines in the closing minutes of a game against the San Diego Chargers. (Dec. 8, 2013) Credit: AP

Tom Brady once said being knocked out of the playoffs is like running on a treadmill when, all of a sudden, it stops. The jarring halt bucks you to the ground with "what just happened?" confusion.

The 2013 Giants season isn't ending that way. They've known formally for two weeks that their campaign will end when the regular season comes to a close. In reality, they've probably known it since October, when they started 0-6.

The drawn-out pace of the landing allows for some reflection as the players and coaches face another long offseason. There have not been a lot of good things to recall, but the hope is that there still is time to put a few pleasant snapshots in the photo album before it is closed for good next week.

"Just feeling good about having some positive memories about this season is always helpful," Eli Manning said this week, providing one of the reasons the Giants will try to end their season with a pair of wins . . . or at least winning efforts.

They will face the Lions Sunday in Detroit and host the Redskins at home next Sunday, two chances to not so much erase the moribund impressions from the season but provide some contrast for balance.

"There are going to be bad memories from this year," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "But we have to keep from making more. We have to try to end it without putting any more bad performances out there. At least show some fire, show some pride, show something."

The Giants already have locked themselves into third place in the NFC East whether they win the last two or lose the last two. The Redskins, next week's opponent, cannot climb out of the division basement.

But the Lions (7-7) still are in the NFC North hunt, and the Giants can play a role in who wins that division. Detroit must win both remaining games and have both the Bears and Packers lose at least once in the final two weeks to win the division. Because the Bears face the Packers next week, if those two teams both win Sunday, the Lions will be eliminated no matter what they do against the Giants. With the Bears playing the Eagles Sunday night, the Lions still will be alive when their game against the Giants begins.

The Giants have been on the other side of that situation in the past, hoping that an eliminated team can muster enough gall to knock off a division foe.

But coach Tom Coughlin said he feels no responsibility toward the contending teams, toward the integrity of the NFC North standings or toward the solemnity of the playoff picture.

"I think there's a responsibility to our team to play your best, be your best," he said. "There always is. That's what we're in this business for, to do the very best we can and not listen to what people tell you about why you're playing . . . It's our responsibility to play as well as we can, the competitiveness of it, the pride that goes with it. What kind of statement do you make as a man in terms of you living up to your responsibilities and the example you set for others? There's an awful lot to play for."

Maybe the Giants can remember that.

Notes & quotes: Second-year safety Will Hill was arrested in New Jersey on Friday night on an outstanding warrant related to child support. He traveled to Detroit with the team Saturday and is expected to play Sunday. The Giants consider the issue a "private, personal matter he is dealing with."

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