In some ways, the New York Giants are right back in the position they like to be in most -- underdog.
Back-to-back losses the past two weeks have everyone questioning what is happening to the defending Super Bowl champions. Are they falling apart after the Plaxico Burress fiasco? Is the defense worn out? Do they have enough playmakers? Can Eli Manning carry the team without Burress, and, possibly, Brandon Jacobs? What happened to the running attack?
Yep, the Giants are right back where they are most comfortable. The pundits that had jumped on their bandwago through the first 12 weeks have now jumped off, seemingly thinking the wheels are coming off Tom Coughlin's team.
This week's opponent, the Carolina Panthers, is the flavor of the week among those who have to brand someone the best each week.
Oddsmakers say the Giants are three-point favorites Sunday when the teams meet to determine the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Giants, though, seem to be adopting the 'get in the foxhole and prove the doubters wrong' attitude that served them so well during last season's playoffs and through the first part of this season.
Here is what defensive end Justin Tuck had to say earlier this week.
I have noticed, especially the last two games, they really have imposed their will on the teams and they still play great defense and their running game looks superb right now. It kind of looks like our running game early in the year and obviously that is where we want to be at. My motto has always been, ‘to be the best you have to beat the best,’ and right now Carolina, like you said, is probably the best team in the NFL. They look that good to me. We know we have our hands full, but we feel as though when we play Giants football we can handle anybody and that is what we have to get back to doing.
Quarterback Eli Manning also praised the Panthers.
They are playing well. They won a big game last week versus Tampa. It looks like they won pretty easily versus Denver, so it seems like they are playing really well right now and so we know we have a big test this weekend, but we just have to prepare, have a great week of practice, go in with a game plan, and try to execute it and see if we can get back to playing consistent football.
Personally, the more urgency the Giants feel and the more they feel they have something to prove the better. I think they like feeling like underdogs.