If you are looking for a reason why the Giants seemed a little listless, worn down and tired on Sunday against the Steelers, it's probably because they are.
The Giants still have one more game against the Bengals before they hit the bye. When the schedule came out in April, most figured Week 11 was a good time for a bye. It would allow them to be fresh for the playoff push. But the Giants had to get there first, and now they seem to be limping in while facing teams that have already had a chance to recover, recoup and go through the in-depth self-analysis that takes place during a bye.
Week 11 is the last week for byes in the NFL. That's when the Giants (6-3) have theirs. They, the Vikings, Seahawks and Titans will be the final teams to get a rest. The Vikings (5-4), like the Giants, have slowed down after a good start and have lost two straight. The Titans (3-6) have lost two in a row as well. The only one of those four who won in Week 9 was the Seahawks, who are 5-4. (Perhaps the Jets can take advantage of their exhaustion on Sunday.)
The Giants have been through a lot besides just the grind of football. They've played at least a game in each of the last 13 weeks, including the preseason. That's a long stretch without a break. They played an abnormal schedule at the beginning of the season, including games on a Wednesday and Thursday night and three of their first four games in prime time. That takes its toll. They've also flown across the country to play the 49ers, had to face the Cowboys knowing that superstorm Sandy was bearing down on their families back home, and come back the next week with the impossible task of lifting the spirits of an entire region that was crippled by the storm. Oh, and they're the defending Super Bowl champions, so every team is trying to measure themselves against the Giants.
No wonder the Giants look weary. No wonder since last week they were already pointing to the bye as a chance to get healthy -- both mentally and physically.
"I'm not concerned at all," wide receiver Hakeem Nicks said of offensive woes after the 24-20 loss Sunday. "I'm sure going into this next week and with the bye week coming up, it will definitely benefit us."
Before they can start to rest, though, the Giants know they'll need to play one more game. And they plan on winning it.
"I think 7-3 will be a nice break," Tom Coughlin said, referring to the Giants' record if they beat the Bengals.
Justin Tuck echoed that confidence as well as that desire to win before the vacation.
"To be 7-3 heading into that bye is going to be huge for us," he said.
But, they also could be 6-4 if they lose.
"That's a huge swing," Tuck said of the difference between 7-3 and 6-4. "After a game that we felt as though we had an opportunity to win and not work out our way, the first thing you want to do is get back on the football field. And we know that the bye is coming up and that's a good thing because we've got some guys banged up that need to kind of recharge their batteries. But our focus is not the bye. Our focus is Cincinnati."
A win over the Bengals would make it a good bye. In any case, it's one that is sorely needed.