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Tuck: The playoffs have started

New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles carries

New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles carries as New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck pursues during the first quarter . (Nov. 29, 2011) Credit: AP

Justin Tuck didn’t play it like Antrel Rolle, predicting that the Giants would make the playoffs. Rather he suggested that they’re already in them.

“This is a playoff,” the Giants’ defensive captain said of the remaining five games, most of which are do-or-die, during his weekly radio spot on WFAN. “The playoffs have started for us. We haven't given (ourselves) any margin for error."

Actually they do. They can lose to the Packers and still win the division if they win most of their final four games – in particular the two against the Cowboys. The Redskins and Jets are sandwiched in between those two clashes, making for a potentially scrumptious Christmas Eve meeting where one team or the other could be eliminated from the postseason with a loss. (I call the “coal in the stocking” lede!)

Anyway, the Giants do have a big game this weekend. Not quite the playoff game Tuck implied, but certainly one in which the Giants need to at least make a statement and play better than they did Monday night against the Saints.

"This team will embarrass us in front of our home folks and it will be worse than it was [against the Saints]," Tuck said of the Packers if the Giants don't play better. "I am actually glad it is a quick turnaround [before playing Green Bay]."

"We played badly," Tuck added. "Hopefully for us we use that as motivation and that we are not going to come out here and embarrass ourselves out here again and what better week to do that than against the Super Bowl champion Packers."

Clearly the Giants are at a crossroads. The next five games will not only determine the fate of this season but possibly (probably?) the future of the franchise. There are few who believe Tom Coughlin will survive another second-half collapse and a third straight playoff-less ending.

But while many folks are seeing that the Giants could be two games out of first place by the time Sunday night rolls around, assuming they lose to the undefeated Packers and the Cowboys beat the Cardinals, there is an alternative. If the Giants win and the Cowboys lose – neither of which is an impossibility – then the Giants would actually head into their Dec. 11 game at Dallas in first place.

"I understand that this is a season where things haven't gone our way in the last couple of weeks," Tuck said. "One game could be the difference-maker in a season. Hopefully we can go out and shock the world. If that happens, we are right back where we want to be."

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