The Giants aren't dumb. They know the math. And they know that there's a chance they can win the next two games and still be left out of the playoffs.
They just choose not to believe it will happen.
"There's been a lot of parity in this league, and we honestly believe that if we handle our business, there's a great chance we can get in," defensive tackle Barry Cofield said Wednesday.
The Giants (8-6) are a game behind the Cowboys and Packers (each 9-5) for the two NFC wild-card spots. If the Giants win both of their remaining games, they would need to have either the Cowboys or the Packers lose one of their last two. On the flip side, if they lose Sunday to the Panthers and the Cowboys and Packers win, the Giants would be eliminated from playoff contention.
"I don't even think about that," coach Tom Coughlin said of the scenarios. "What I think about is winning one game at a time. We will do the very best we can, and hopefully that is enough."
Said Eli Manning: "We don't want to think about the alternative."
The Giants haven't played a "meaningless" game since the end of the 2004 season, having advanced to the playoffs each year since then. For many players, making the playoffs has become something they are used to. "It's definitely weird," Cofield said. "We've won a lot of games around here and that's why when things don't go right and we do struggle, a big deal is made out of it. We expect to be playing in January."
Expectations might not be a reality, though.
"We know we need help, but we're just going to play and try to win our games," Cofield said. "If we finish with 10 wins and we finish on what would be a three-game winning streak and we don't make it, we'll have to deal with it then. But until then we're going to prepare as if we're going to play through February."
Besides, in some ways, the Giants are already in the playoffs. "It's do or die and our backs are against the wall," Mathias Kiwanuka said. "Our playoffs have already started."