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    Excerpt: "
    Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell is signed with the team through
    next season, according to someone informed of Fewell's contract status.

    The person, who requested anonymity because the team doesn't usually divulge
    the deals for their coaches, said Fewell received an extension last offseason
    after his round of head-coaching interviews with the Broncos, Panthers, Browns
    and Titans. Fewell
    was the runner-up to Ron Rivera
    in Carolina.

    Fewell initially signed a two-year deal with the Giants after the team fired
    Bill Sheridan following the 2009 season."


    "Over the past month, DE Jason Pierre-Paul has established himself as one of
    the NFL's elite defensive linemen, garnering the NFC Defensive Player of the
    Week award twice and earning a spot in the Pro Bowl in the process.

    It only makes sense that he was named the NFC's Defensive Player of the Month
    for December/January today.

    In the season’s final five games over the month-plus stretch, Pierre-Paul had
    37 tackles (28 solo), including six sacks for 46 yards in losses. He twice had
    two sacks in a game, both of which were followed with the weekly award.

    Yet, Pierre-Paul -- along with his coaches and teammates -- believes there's
    still some untapped potential considering he's only in his second pro season and
    began playing football his senior year of high school.

    “I knew that I was going to have a great year this year,” Pierre-Paul said.
    “I came in and last year (as a rookie) I had an alright season and I wanted to
    do better than what I did last year. Next year, or next season in 2012, I should
    be better than this year.”

    It was in the Giants' 37-34 win over the Cowboys on Dec. 11 that Pierre-Paul
    burst onto the national spotlight. The second-year defensive end led the Giants
    with eight tackles, including two sacks of Tony Romo, the first of which
    resulted in a safety. He also forced a fumble that led to a Giants field goal
    and secured the victory by blocking Dan Bailey’s 47-yard field goal attempt with
    one second left.

    He followed that up by registering a career-high 16 tackles and a sack
    against Washington, and five tackles and two sacks against the Jets.

    Pierre-Paul finished the season with 16.5 sacks and became the only Giants
    player in history other than Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan with at least
    16 sacks in a season."


    The Giants’ injury report is finally dwindling, as players return to the
    field and the team continues to get healthier at the right time. There were just
    five names on today’s injury report and two – RB Da’Rel Scott (knee) and DE Osi
    Umenyiora (ankle/knee) – practiced fully.

    But two others are still battling injuries that could keep them on the
    sideline Sunday against the Falcons.

    TE Jake Ballard was limited in today’s practice and said tomorrow’s session
    will be the major test for him and his chances of playing on Sunday. Tomorrow
    he’ll get more reps and a chance to run and cut to test his partially torn

    “It’s all about running,” Ballard said. “I can block -- it’s all about
    whether I can run routes and be effective doing that or not.”

    Since Ballard sustained the injury the Giants have turned to a combination of
    Bear Pascoe and Travis Beckum. Pascoe had four catches for 40 yards since
    Ballard sustained the injury against Washington in Week 15.

    Ballard said it was difficult watching the team the last two weeks and not
    being able to play in such important games, but his outlook is a lot more
    optimistic this week.

    “From last to this week, I definitely feel a lot more confident in my knee,”
    Ballard said. “I’ll be taking a lot more reps tomorrow and I’ll have more of an
    idea of what’s going to happen.”

    LB Mark Herzlich’s chances of suiting up Sunday are also higher than last
    week, but it remains a long shot. Herzlich has been out since suffering an ankle
    injury against the Saints on Nov. 28 and said the ankle still isn’t pain-free.

    He said he went to the hospital yesterday and imaging showed that “the
    healing is coming along.” Today, he made it out to the practice field today,
    participating in the jog through and stretching before he worked with the
    training staff on the side.

    It’s not much, but it’s improvement.

    “I got out there and did a little bit at least, so it’s progress,” the rookie
    linebacker said.

    As expected, RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) was held out and won’t likely practice
    until Friday."


    "The hardest part of having a breakout year, Roddy White said, is the way
    defenses start to game plan against you.

    And for that, he feels like Giants wideout Victor Cruz – who leads
    the team with 82 receptions for 1,536 yards
    and nine touchdowns – may be
    surprised by what he sees next season.

    "Next year, he may be in for a rude awakening," White said.

    In spite of that, White said he's a fan of Cruz's and thinks that he's
    definitely in for a big pay day. White held out for his back in 2009 after two
    straight 1,200-plus yard seasons and ended up with a six-year deal with $48

    "Any time you put out those kinds of numbers, he’s going to be in for a
    really good pay day, but he deserves it," White said. "Any guy that goes out
    there and puts up 1,500 yards, that’s remarkable. That’s one of the nicest
    seasons you can have so I think the Giants should pay him."

    After saying that, White began to laugh at the notion of suggesting another
    player should get a bigger deal. "I’m a Victor Cruz fan," he said. "I think they
    should pay him."

    White said he's seen Cruz on television and film a few times. On his
    touchdown salsa dance, which seems to be emulated around the league, White

    "I’ve seen it a couple times, it’s pretty nice, a pretty nice dance. It’s
    elegant, very nice."


    Excerpt: "Justin Tuck told reporters on Monday that "most people" would refer to the Falcons'
    offensive line as "dirtbags
    ." And by today, Atlanta's starting left tackle,
    Will Svitek, was considering some marketing opportunities that may come along
    with such a nickname.

    "I have to find out the Wikipedia definition of dirtbag, I don't know there.
    I was joking maybe we should make T-shirts and start branding this, you know?"
    he said. "We could make a profit in the New York market, it's an

    Svitek said that he's been receiving e-mails and text messages from friends
    all week, joking about the comment.

    But in all seriousness, he echoed the same sentiment as most of the offensive
    linemen wearing red and black, saying that the Falcons "play to the whistle" and
    that it may be misinterpreted sometimes.

    He rephrased it, and said that they may be "pests."

    "I know we definitely don't do things after the whistle because it's illegal,
    you'll get a 15-yard penalty, A, and you'll get a fine from the league office,
    B," he said. "We don't want either of those, like I said, I think we play to the
    whistle. We're going to be pests, we're going to always be hovering around, but
    if (Tuck) thinks that's being dirty or being cheap, we can't control that, we
    don't think it is. We have our style, we've always done it and that's the kind
    of way we do things here." Read more...\



    Excerpt: "
    Jake Ballard is back to work - well, sort of.

    The Giants' starting tight end, out
    since suffering a knee injury against the Redskins on Dec. 18, will participate
    in individual drills at practice today, coach Tom Coughlin said during his
    morning press conference. That doesn't necessarily mean later on he'll be listed
    as having practiced today because it's unclear at this point if he'll do any
    work in team drills.

    Coughlin said whether Ballard participates in the team portion of practice
    will depend on how he feels after individuals."


    Excerpt: "
    Mathias Kiwanuka was one of the first players on the field Sunday, warming up
    in a steady rain at MetLife Stadium. He was going through his run “fits,”
    imagining himself coming downhill and meeting a lead blocker and/or the ball

    About three hours later, on the first play from scrimmage in the Giants’ game against the Cowboys,
    Kiwanuka flew into the backfield where he wrapped up Felix Jones and brought him
    down for a loss of 1 yard.

    It was a tone-setting play and he’d add another in the second quarter, when
    he ran through fullback Tony Fiammetta to tackle Jones for a loss of 2.

    Though these kinds of plays don’t come with the glory (and bargaining power)
    of sacks, Kiwanuka has learned to accept them as a part of his new life at

    “You’ve got to thrive off it, start to enjoy it. And once you’re given a role
    in the defense, you just kind of have to go out there and do it,” Kiwanuka said
    Monday as he headed for his day-plus of rest before preparation for the playoff
    game against the Falcons begins today.

    “I told myself, ‘(defensive tackle) Linval Joseph is kind of in a similar
    situation. You’re a run-stopper. I’m the run-stopper for the linebackers.’ It’s
    tough because sometimes, the better you play, the less you play.

    “But at the same time, you’re making that team one-dimensional and you’re
    giving your team a better chance. If they’re not talking about the other team
    running the ball that means I’m doing my job.”

    Kiwanuka’s job has been an important one for the Giants this season, even if
    he’s not being talked about as much as the pass-rushers in front of him.

    While Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora have gotten to the quarterback a
    combined 25½ times, Kiwanuka has recorded just 3½ sacks. That’s a half-sack
    short of last season’s total in 13 more games played. The reason is he’s been
    mostly limited to being a run-stopper who occasionally drops into coverage and
    sometimes puts his hand down as a pass-rusher.

    Often, Kiwanuka’s contributions can’t even be measured in tackles, such as in
    the season opener when he did a terrific job of taking on lead blocks to keep
    the Redskins’ running game contained. As the Giants prepare for the Falcons’
    rushing attack, which struggled late in the season but erupted for 251 yards
    against the Buccaneers on Sunday, they’ll need such physical play from

    “That was really an outstanding game for Kiwi,” coach Tom Coughlin said of
    his play against Dallas, adding: “We put a lot of time and emphasis into
    stopping the run. One of the packages was what you saw right away early in the
    game with Kiwi. He certainly did respond and play well.”

    It’s been well-documented how Kiwanuka’s neck injury last season allowed him
    to accept and appreciate a role at linebacker he once resisted. Just being on
    the field again after a herniated disc threatened his career is enough to make
    him smile.

    Toss in another shot to experience his first playoff victory as an active
    player (he was on injured reserve with a broken leg during the run to Super Bowl
    XLII), plus 16 games played, and you have a guy who’s thankful for a lot right

    “Just dealing with family issues, from my brother’s motorcycle accident (in
    May 2010) to myself being injured and not being able to complete a season, being
    on IR for the second time in five years, it becomes tough,” he said. “So having
    completed an entire regular season, it was an emotional moment.”

    Especially since he made it through this season despite a lot of pounding on
    his neck as a run-stopper.

    “It’s definitely more of a physical toll because you’ve got a running start
    against a guy who might be shorter but a lot of those fullbacks, they pack some
    weight,” he said. “It’s a physical game, but that’s my style of football. I like
    to come downhill, I like to hit. I like when a team has a big fullback they have
    confidence in because that means I’m going to be out there a lot and get a
    chance to get to the ball.”


    Excerpt: "Sunday night’s battle for the NFC East title between the Giants and Cowboys was the type of game
    every football player dreams of playing in: a high-stakes affair under the
    spotlight on national television.

    Ramses Barden expected to be a part of it. The 6-foot-6 wide receiver had
    been active in each of the eight games since he was activated off the physically
    unable to perform (PUP) list before Week 9. But he was one of the seven players
    ruled inactive by the team against the Cowboys.

    “You always expect to go out and contribute and to be a part of your team’s
    success or lack of success,” Barden said at the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s
    2012 Muscle Team Gala & Benefit Auction in Manhattan on Tuesday night. I
    would have liked that opportunity, but I don’t have any regrets. What’s done is
    done. Decisions were made. My goal this week is to have an outstanding week of
    practice and make sure I’m on the field come Sunday.”

    In the eight contests he did suit up for, he had nine receptions for 94 yards
    -- his best game coming against the Saints in Week 12 when he had three catches
    for 38 yards. But after tight end Jake Ballard went down with a partially torn
    PCL against Washington in Week 14 -- leaving the Giants with two inexperienced
    backup tight ends -- and Mario Manningham was also unable to suit up against the
    Jets the following week, Barden didn’t step up like he had hoped he would have.

    He admitted as much on his Twitter account after recording just one catch for
    four yards on Christmas Eve.

    “Really happy for the great team win,” the third-year receiver tweeted after
    the game. “But I played my worst game of my young career. I'll fix it [though].
    Next week can't come fast enough.”

    Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t able to rectify it against the Cowboys. Now
    Barden is looking forward to getting back on the field Sunday against Atlanta in
    the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

    “Being the competitor that I am, it’s hard to watch them win and it’s hard to
    watch them lose,” Barden said Tuesday. “But at the same time, I’m happy we got
    that we got the win because I am a part of the team. I’ll be back out there
    hopefully this weekend and have an opportunity to contribute.” Read more...


    Excerpt: "
    The Giants are one of seven teams
    since 2002 that have made the playoffs despite being outscored in the regular
    season. This, according to the
    weekly stat review
    released by the team today.

    Naturally, I wanted to see how those teams fared in the postseason. Just
    thinking about the stat and the fact 113 teams who made the postseason in that
    time frame weren't outscored, I figured the rate of those teams getting bounced
    out had to be high, right?

    Wrong. Three of the previous five (this year's Broncos are on the list, so
    obviously we don't know what they'll do yet) won their wild-card playoff game.
    And one of the two that lost (the '04 Seahawks) lost to another team on the list
    (the '04 Rams). So obviously somebody had to lose that one.

    That leaves the 2006 Giants as the only team that we can point to as one that
    lost. And if you recall correctly, they played the Eagles pretty tough in that
    game. They tied the game late, only to lose on a last-second field goal by David

    So I guess what I'm saying is that's the good news. Now, here's the bad news:
    Of the three teams that won their first-round game, none won in the divisional
    round. So that means none of the teams that advanced made it to the conference

    None of this means the Giants can't get that far. It's just some historical

    Here's the list of teams I'm talking about:

    2004 Seahawks: 371 points for, 373 points against
    (Lost to Rams 27-20 in
    wild-card round)

    2004 Rams: 319 for, 392 against
    (Lost to Falcons 47-17 in divisional

    2006 Giants: 355 for, 362 against
    (Lost to Eagles 23-20 in wild-card

    2006 Seahawks: 335 for, 341 against
    (Lost to Bears 27-24 in divisional

    2010 Seahawks: 310 for, 407 against
    (Lost to Bears 35-24 in divisional

    2011 Giants: 394 for, 400 against

    2011 Broncos: 309 for, 390 against"




    "The uniforms and helmets are the same, deja Blue. So is the gifted ad-libber
    at quarterback, Eli Manning, and the
    grumpy coach, Tom Coughlin. So are
    the running backs, Brandon Jacobs and
    Ahmad Bradshaw.
    There are still fearsome pass rushers to worry opponents, plus another local
    North Jersey wide receiver poised to make circus catches.

    And those are not the only similarities between this Giants team heading into
    the postseason Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons and the one that captured the
    Super Bowl in 2008. Like those Giants of four years ago, these current Giants
    struggled in the second half of the regular season. Like those Giants, this
    edition also lost a tough, character-building, late-season game to an undefeated
    team by the same score, 38-35.

    Coughlin survived calls for his scalp this December, just as he did back
    then. And like those Giants, the path to a Super Bowl begins on Sunday against a
    very beatable opponent — the Falcons this time, the Bucs in 2008 — and probably
    will go through frigid Green Bay again.

    Given these eerie similarities, is it really so farfetched to imagine a
    similar run? Well, yes and no. The Giants own a sturdy institutional memory for
    winning big games and are not a franchise anybody would want to face in the
    first or even second round. Yet when you look closely at the numbers, there are
    several differences between then and now:

    The Giants, on offense, clearly have evolved from a power rushing attack into
    a passing team, despite a similar cast of characters at the skill positions.
    While their defense is disruptive, they simply give away too many yards all over
    the place.

    During the 2007 regular season, Manning threw for 3,336 yards and 23
    touchdowns. This season, he totaled 4,933 yards and 29 TDs. That’s nearly a 50%
    increase in passing yards, an astounding leap. Meanwhile, the rushing numbers
    have deteriorated dramatically. During 2007, Brandon Jacobs gained 1,009 yards
    as part of 2,148 total team yards. This season, Jacobs was down to 571 yards.
    The Giants were down to 1,427 — a decrease of about one-third.

    Personnel wise, there is no obvious decline except arguably in the defensive
    backfield. At wide receiver, Victor Cruz grew up 10
    miles away from David Tyree and
    represents a substantial upgrade. Putting aside all the injured tight ends from
    both years, you would have to take the trio of Cruz, Mario Manningham
    and Hakeem Nicks over the
    2007 duo of Plaxico Burress and
    Amani Toomer.

    On defense, the Giants led the league with 53 sacks during the 2007 regular
    season. This season, behind Jason
    ’s 161/2 sacks, the team totaled nearly as many, 48. If Justin
    and Osi Umenyiora
    continue to heal and improve, the present pass rush is just as fearsome.

    And yet . . . the Giant defense this season gave up 4,082 passing yards and
    1,940 rushing yards. Four years ago, those Giants yielded just 3,317 yards
    passing and 1,563 yards rushing. Arguments can be made that this fall-off has
    been caused by injuries, by personnel or by a change in the defensive
    coordinator, from Steve Spagnuolo to
    Perry Fewell. That
    last argument will be grow louder, no doubt, if the Giants fall early and
    Spagnuolo, recently axed as coach of the Rams, is still on the market.

    In the end, the biggest difference between now and then may be the strength
    of the NFC, and the power of playoff opponents. Back in 2008, the Pats, Colts
    and Steelers were still considered the class of the NFL. This time around,
    nobody in the AFC has a better record than the Packers, 49ers or Saints.

    That, right there, might be the greatest roadblock to a Giant run: An extra,
    almost unwinnable game in New Orleans that was not on the grid during the Super
    Bowl campaign. Then again, Coughlin has a way of winning the unwinnable, losing
    the unloseable. As John Mara puts it, “He
    seems to be at his best when everybody puts his back against the wall.”

    If Coughlin’s Giants can just get past the Falcons on Sunday, the impossible
    matchups that follow may play right to their intangible


    "They were a fingertip away from beating the 49ers and they took the
    then-undefeated Packers all the way down to the final seconds. Those are the top
    two seeds in the NFC playoffs.

    No wonder the Giants will open in the postseason Sunday thinking: Why not

    “When we play like we played in those games? Yeah,” said Giants defensive end
    Justin Tuck. “It’s
    encouraging to know we did take the top two seeds to the wire and had great
    opportunities to beat them. It didn’t happen for us, but if history tells you
    anything about that, maybe we get another shot at them.”

    Of course, as Tuck pointed out, the Giants “also got routed by the No. 3
    seed” — a 49-24 hammering in New Orleans on Nov. 28 — but even that hasn’t
    dampened the confidence of a team that feels “battle-tested” after a difficult
    final nine games. Along the way they lost to the 49ers in San Francisco, 27-20,
    on Nov. 13, when defensive tackle Justin Smith batted
    down a possible game-tying touchdown pass in the final seconds. They then lost
    to the Packers, 38-35, on Dec. 4, on a field goal with no time left on the

    Pushing those two teams down to the wire made the Giants feel like they did
    after their infamous regular-season finale in 2007 when they nearly beat the
    15-0 New England Patriots and left feeling they were as good as any team in the
    NFL. If the Packers and 49ers are the best the NFC has to offer, the Giants
    won’t be afraid of a rematch with either one.

    “I feel like we have played the best of the best opponents throughout this
    season,” said safety Antrel Rolle. “We
    haven’t always played up to our standards in most of those games and we had a
    lot of ups and downs. I think we all know that if we focus on what we need to
    do, the sky is the limit for us.”

    Tuck feels that way, too. It’s why after the Giants wrapped up the NFC East
    title with a 31-14 win over the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night, he said “We’re
    capable of winning the Super Bowl.” His confidence comes from the fact that “you
    have played the best teams and you know how you stack up against them. You have
    taken guys’ best shots.”

    Those shots included a 24-20 win in New England over the top-seeded team in
    the AFC. In all, the Giants have faced four of the top six seeds in the playoffs
    over the last nine weeks — the Packers, Patriots, 49ers and Saints — and gone
    toe-to-toe with three of them.

    So when the playoffs open this weekend, the Giants won’t fear anyone in the

    NO. 1 GREEN BAY PACKERS (15-1)
    The Giants pushed the
    then-unbeaten Pack as far as a team could be pushed on Dec. 4, when they lost,
    38-35, on a last-second field goal. Eli Manning (347 yards,
    4 TDs) nearly matched Aaron Rodgers
    performance (369 yards, 4 TDs).

    Quarterbacks: Manning has proven he is ‘elite,’ but Rodgers was the MVP this
    season. His passer rating of 122.5 was a record, and he threw for 4,643 yards
    and 45 TDs despite sitting out the season finale.

    Coaching: Mike McCarthy doesn’t
    have the lengthy resume that Tom Coughlin does, but
    he has the ring and looks poised for another. Since the start of the 2009
    season, McCarthy’s Packers are 40-13, including the playoffs. Coughlin’s Giants
    are 27-21.

    Defense: For all the angst about the Giants’ 27th-ranked defense, here’s
    something encouraging: The Packers are 15-1 with the worst statistical defense
    in the NFL. They give up 411.6 yards per game. Of course, they also lead the NFL
    with 31 interceptions.

    If they meet again . . . : Going toe-to-toe with the Pack in a regular-season
    game at the Meadowlands was nice, but it’s a much different task to win in Green
    Bay in the playoffs. Then again, Manning and Coughlin have done that before.

    NO. 2 SAN FRANCISCO 49ers (13-3)
    The Giants were a
    fingertip away from tying up the 49ers in San Francisco on Nov. 13, when Smith
    got that piece of Manning’s pass toward an open Victor Cruz and a
    game-tying touchdown. San Francisco held on for a 27-20 win.

    Quarterbacks: Alex Smith
    is no Eli Manning, but he did take a big leap this year in efficiency. Charged
    with managing the game and little more, he threw only five interceptions.
    Manning is carrying his team. Smith is along for the ride.

    Coaching: Jim Harbaugh has had a
    terrific debut season, and many believe he will be an NFL coaching star. Just
    keep in mind he inherited a loaded, underachieving roster and plays in the weak
    NFC West.

    Defense: Not that it matters, since the Giants can’t run on anybody this
    year, but the 49ers have the NFL’s No. 1 rushing defense (77.2 yards per game)
    and they give up only 14.3 points per game. Then again, Manning did light them
    up for 311 yards.

    If they meet again . . . : The Giants will have no fear if they end up in San
    Francisco. They lost on a bad interception, an overthrow near the end zone and a
    tipped pass near the goal line. They left the West Coast feeling like they were
    absolutely the better team.

    The one game of the year
    in which the Giants looked absolutely out-classed was on Nov. 28 when the Saints
    blitzed them, 49-24. The Saints are 8-0 in the Superdome. The good news is the
    Giants wouldn’t have to go there until the NFC Championship Game. But if they
    do, it could be bad.

    Quarterbacks: If Rodgers is the MVP, Drew Brees is the
    Offensive Player of the Year for his NFL-record 5,476 passing yards. Add a
    completion percentage of 71.2, 46 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions and he
    might be the best quarterback in the NFL.

    Coaching: Once a boy-wonder offensive coordinator with the Giants, Sean
    has turned the Saints into a powerhouse and he has the ring to prove
    it. His offense is fast, complicated and he’s a worthy chess-game opponent for
    any coach.

    Defense: Gregg Williams
    defense is ranked 24th in the NFL, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The
    Saints also have only nine interceptions and 33 sacks, which is odd considering
    how many teams were forced to throw from behind. They are vulnerable.

    If they meet again . . . : It would be the Giants’ worst nightmare. They have
    a better chance of winning anywhere else than they do inside the loud, mammoth

    NO. 5 ATLANTA FALCONS (10-6)
    They will find out for sure
    how they match up on Sunday at 1 p.m. when they meet in the wild-card playoffs
    at the Meadowlands. The Falcons roll in having won three of four, averaging 33.3
    points in those games.

    Quarterbacks: Midway through the season, the consensus was that Matt Ryan had
    taken a step backward in his fourth season. That changed over the final nine
    games, and he finished with a franchise-record 4,177 yards and no interceptions
    in six of his last seven games.

    Coaching: Mike Smith
    turned around the Falcons after their Michael Vick/Bobby Petrino
    nightmares, but on his resume is a glaring playoff loss at home as the NFC’s No.
    1 seed last season. Of course, Coughlin has one of those, too, from the 2008
    season, to the Eagles.

    Defense: Statistically they were the fourth-best defense in the NFC, good vs.
    the run and solid vs. the pass. Their pass rush isn’t great, though. Their ends,
    John Abraham and Ray
    , combined for 13 sacks — 31/2 fewer than Jason Pierre-Paul
    had by himself.

    When they meet . . . : Expect a lot of points. The Giants’ strength is their
    passing attack. The Falcons are loaded with offensive weapons.

    NO. 6 DETROIT LIONS (10-6)
    It’s unlikely they would face
    the Lions unless they are the last two teams standing. In that case, the matchup
    would be the NFC Championship Game at the Meadowlands. Not a lot of basis for
    comparison, except that like the Giants, the Lions also lost in New Orleans and
    to the Packers. They beat the Cowboys, too.

    Quarterbacks: Matthew Stafford
    might be the best-kept secret in the NFL. He arrived this season with 5,038
    yards and 41 touchdowns. He’s in Manning’s class, just without the ring.

    Coaching: Jim Schwartz has done
    an incredible job turning around this moribund franchise, and his energy has the
    Lions feeling like true contenders. His players could take a few discipline
    lessons from Coughlin, though.

    Defense: The unit surprisingly underachieved, ranking 23rd in the NFL, but
    the Lions boast a strong defensive line anchored by the enigmatic Ndamukong Suh
    assuming he doesn’t get himself tossed out of the game early.

    If they meet . . . : If the Giants end up with a home game in the NFC title
    game, the whole city would be smelling the Super Bowl. But don’t overlook the
    damage Stafford and receiver
    Calvin Johnson
    can do."


    Excerpt: "Osi Umenyiora’s
    return to action after missing a month with a sprained ankle was a successful

    But it was also painful.

    It turns out that what Justin Tuck said on the
    radio on Monday night was right — that Umenyiora suffered “a little setback”
    during the Giants’ 31-14, NFC East-clinching win over the Cowboys. Umenyiora
    aggravated the injury late in the game, according to a source familiar with his
    situation, and it could force him to miss some practice this week.

    After Umenyiora missed the previous four games with a sprain he suffered on
    Nov. 28, the source said the lineman needed an injection of pain-killers before
    the game against the Cowboys. However as the game wore on, Umenyiora’s
    medication wore off, making it tough for him to push off on the ankle.

    After the game, Umenyiora admitted, “It was hurting a little bit, but I
    wasn’t coming out of the game.” He did not appear to be

    According to one source, Umenyiora is playing at about “70%”
    right now, but even if he does miss practice when it resumes Wednesday, he has
    every intention of being in the lineup when the Giants open the postseason
    against the Atlanta Falcons at the Meadowlands on Sunday." Read more...



    Excerpt: "Giants tight end Jake Ballard said “sitting out the last two weeks killed
    me’’ and he is determined not to miss out on the fun for a third consecutive

    “Especially sitting out those last two games, playing the Jets and then the
    Cowboys for the division title, it’s the kind of stuff you look forward to all
    your life and I had to sit and watch,’’ Ballard said. “I’m glad the team got it

    The Giants did get it done and now Ballard hopes to get back in the action.
    Ballard practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, taking part in individual drills
    and even took a few reps in the team periods. Ballard has missed the past two
    games with a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, an
    injury that usually takes 2-4 weeks to heal. Last week Ballard was not able to
    run with any stability and this week the thought was that he might have to miss
    another game before the knee was strong enough to withstand the pounding in a

    Now he’s talking as if he could be ready to face the Falcons on Sunday in an
    NFC Wild Card playoff game.

    “I feel confident,’’ Ballard said. “The more reps I get the more idea of how
    I will feel in the game. It’s all about running. I can block with it, it’s
    whether I can run routes and be effective doing that or not. From last week to
    this week I definitely feel a lot more confident in my knee. I’ll be taking a
    lot more reps tomorrow and I will have a better idea what’s going to

    Ballard practiced while having his right knee taped up and protected with a
    brace, which he says is “not ideal but it gets the job done.’’ As far as his
    knee, Ballard said, “It’s not that it hurts, it’s that it feels not stable. As
    long as I’m not getting any direct hits on my knee we should be all
    right.’’


    Excerpt: "Justin Tuck might think they're "dirtbags" for their style of play, but the
    Falcons' offensive line are offering no apologies.

    Atlanta tackles Will Svitek and Tyson Clabo defended themselves Wednesday
    after Tuck -- who they face Sunday when the Giants play host to an NFC wild-card
    game at MetLife Stadium -- became the latest NFL defensive lineman to accuse the
    Falcons of crossing the line with their tactics by claiming "most people would
    say they are dirtbags."

    "That's his point of view," Svitek said. "If he views us as cheap, then so be
    it. We're going to do what we do. We take pride in being physical. You don't
    want to be viewed as soft. We're always going to be there, and we want them to
    know we're there."

    The Falcons' linemen are in the crosshairs -- even the suspended Ndamukong
    Suh called them dirty -- because their favored approach is cut blocking, or
    going low to take out a defender's legs. It's legal but can lead to a serious
    injury when not done properly.

    If that's dirty, Svitek said, then so be it.

    "We cut like everybody else," he said. "That's not illegal, and we don't get
    fined. We're not trying to hurt anybody. Diving at people's legs is just part of
    the game. It's not done in a cheap way."

    Clabo, who spent a couple of weeks on the Giants' practice squad in 2004,
    echoed Svitek and added that the other accusation against Atlanta's linemen --
    that they flop at the end of plays in order to get retaliation penalties on
    defenders -- is equally undeserved."


    "Even as a redshirt freshman running the scout team at Boston College, Matt Ryan stood out to his teammates.

    “You could kind of tell then that he had that special quality,” said Giants
    guard Chris Snee, one of those BC teammates. “He ran the scout team against our
    defense, and they called him ‘Matty Ice’ ... that’s when he got that nickname in
    college. He’s a heck of a quarterback.”

    Snee, who will face the Falcons quarterback Sunday in their NFC Wild Card
    playoff game at MetLife Stadium, said Ryan stood out because of his immediate

    “As a freshman, you’re kind of feeling everyone out, but he stepped right and
    took command of the scout team huddle, and really just approached it like he was
    preparing for a game, which really caught the eye of the coaches,” he said. “The
    rest is history.”

    Another former college teammate of Ryan’s, Giants linebacker Mathias
    Kiwanuka, said he was immediately impressed by the quarterback’s play-making
    ability — even in difficult situations.

    “He’s not afraid to make mistakes,” Kiwanuka said. “He doesn’t make a lot of
    them now ... but when he was a young kid coming into BC, he’d make those
    mistakes but he’d never waver.”

    Ryan, who was taken by the Falcons with the second overall pick in the 2008
    draft, finished this season with career highs in yards (4,177), touchdowns (29)
    and quarterback rating (92.2) in his fourth season.

    Kiwanuka said he wasn’t surprised by the success Ryan has enjoyed.

    “He’s a gifted, physically talented individual,” Kiwanuka said. “And he’s got
    that confidence about him.”

    What should the Giants do to slow Ryan down?

    “Hit him,” Kiwanuka said, smiling. “You can be the best quarterback in the
    world, but if your head’s ringing, it’s hard to throw that ball.”



    Excerpt: "Sometimes you simply have to ride out a groundswell, and linking these
    Giants, on the eve of the playoffs, to the 2007 team that forged a special place
    in NFL history is a natural gusher.

    The way they closed out an uneven regular season in style. The way they
    battled to the finish with an unbeaten opponent (Patriots then, Packers now) to
    hint at possible things to come. The way a suffocating pass rush seemed to
    swallow-up opposing quarterbacks whole. The way, almost eerily, Eli Manning last
    week wriggled out of trouble and chucked it deep downfield, where a
    not-very-open receiver (David Tyree then, the wondrous Victor Cruz now) at the
    top of his leap somehow secured the football, fueling a crucial scoring drive.
    If Cruz had any sense of nostalgia, he would have pinned the ball against his

    “The 2007 team had their own identity, they had their moments. Hopefully this
    2011 team can have their identity and their moments,’’ Justin Tuck said. “We’re
    not the same team that we were in ’07, and I’m not going to try to say we are.
    But we do have a lot of similarities and we can do a lot of things we did in
    ’07. Hopefully, we can get on that run.’’

    Recreating “that run’’ is impossible because “the innocent climb’’ that Pat
    Riley wrote about cannot be replicated. This is not to say the Giants are
    incapable of going the distance this season. Even if they make an improbable
    charge, it won’t be 2007 redux because that experience is bottled and corked,
    never to be repoured. Tom Coughlin recently sounded more than a bit wistful when
    he referred to that time in the Giants’ lives as “a very, very wonderful

    Most championship seasons and teams do not become a catch-phrase, but “the
    2007 Giants’’ is forever the rallying cry whenever there’s a little team that
    seemingly can’t. The memory of how the Giants did is sure to inspire.

    The buildup here feels different. Tuck correctly recalled that in 2007 “I
    don’t think we were favored in any game we played in that playoff run, no one
    really gave us a shot.’’ That’s not the case this time around. The Giants, at
    home, are favored to beat the Falcons. If the Giants move on to Lambeau Field
    they will be considered huge underdogs, and dethroning the Packers would be
    viewed as a monumental upset. Yet the most recent evidence — Packers 38, Giants
    35 in a Dec. 4 thriller decided by a last-second field goal — suggests the
    Giants can hang with the defending Super Bowl champs.

    Just how alike is this team to the now-sainted 2007 club? With Osi Umenyiora
    back on the field, the three-headed monster (Umenyiora, Tuck and Jason
    Pierre-Paul) on the defensive line is just as fearsome as the Osi-Tuck-Michael
    Strahan version. There’s no Antonio Pierce calling the shots in the middle of
    the defense, though. Aaron Ross and Corey Webster were the starting cornerbacks
    for that playoff run and still are here, still starting, still relying on
    relentless pressure up front to offset any coverage issues." Read more...


    "When you take the Falcons out of a dome, you take a lot out of the Falcons.
    Take them out of Atlanta, for that matter, and they’re not the same team.

    MetLife Stadium is expected to be cold and rainy Sunday afternoon, which is
    good news for the Giants in light of Atlanta’s struggles in the relatively few
    open-air games it played this season.

    In fact, the Falcons have felt fresh air for a game just once since a Week 4
    win at Seattle in early October — a statistic that would seem to loom large for
    both teams when Big Blue plays host to Atlanta in the NFC wild-card round this

    “You always like making a dome team play outdoors,” Giants defensive end
    Mathias Kiwanuka said this week. “It doesn’t guarantee you anything, but it’s
    definitely going to be an adjustment for them.”


    The Falcons went just 2-2 outdoors, with victories in each of their final two
    open-air appearances (at the Seahawks and the Panthers) that were both narrow
    escapes. They were just 4-4 overall on the road, compared to 6-2 at home.

    The Giants also can take heart in the fact that two of Atlanta’s worst
    performances of the season — a 30-12 loss to the Bears in Week 1 and a 16-13
    loss to the lowly Buccaneers in Week 3 — came when the Falcons were forced to
    play outdoors.

    Atlanta committed a season-high three turnovers in each of the open-air
    losses to Chicago and Tampa Bay, accounting in just two games for nearly a third
    of its 21 turnovers for the entire season.

    Unfortunately for the Giants, the Falcons almost counter-intuitively are
    built for cold weather with a rugged power running game, led by Michael Turner,
    that ranked seventh in the NFL in yardage.

    Turner is a bruising back who operates behind a sturdy offensive line with a
    cut-blocking approach that isn’t popular with opposing defensive linemen,
    prompting Giants defensive end Justin Tuck to say earlier this week that he has
    heard the Falcons’ linemen called “dirtbags” for their tactics.

    Then again, the Falcons’ vaunted running game was MIA for much of the second
    half of the season. Atlanta rushed for more than 97 yards just once in its final
    six games, and that was in a Week 17 romp over the hapless Buccaneers at home
    when the Falcons rolled up a season-high 251 rushing yards.

    Regardless of whether the game is indoors or outdoors, the Giants no doubt
    are relishing the chance to face quarterback Matt Ryan somewhere other than the
    Georgia Dome.

    Ryan is 43-19 in four seasons as a starter, but his individual splits are
    eye-popping in their imbalance — 26-4 at home but just 17-15 on the road.

    Falcons coach Mike Smith continues to put on a brave face in light of all the
    negative trends facing his team this weekend in its first outdoor playoff game
    since he took over as coach four seasons ago.

    “From what I understand, [on] a certain website that I check the weather on,
    the weather is going to be nice,” Smith said yesterday.

    Even if that turns out to be true, the history books say it probably won’t do
    Smith and the Falcons much good."


    Excerpt: "Maybe the new joint is just a little too big, a little too airy, a little too
    lacking in charm and intimacy to ever turn it into Lambeau East. Or, for that
    matter, into what the old place next door was on so many frigid January Sundays
    across the years.

    We’ll find out, at least.

    On Sunday, MetLife Stadium gets a splendid, sonorous introduction to playoff
    football, the Giants welcoming the Falcons, first playoff game in the new house.
    It’s perfect. After listening to the other guys in town drone on about how
    necessary home games in the playoffs are, the Jets will spend their weekend
    watching the Giants illustrate their point.

    The Giants were only 4-4 at home this year (though they did win their “road”
    game against the Jets), are only 9-7 there through two years, and most of those
    wins weren’t exactly glittering showpieces.

    The perception, right now, is that the Giants are a vulnerable home team.

    One afternoon can alter that. The last two weeks, against two bitter enemies,
    the Giants defended their home fiercely, holding off the Jets and blowing out
    the Cowboys, pushing themselves from playoff fringe to home game. They played
    two beautiful, complete games when they needed them most.

    And you’d like to think the venue didn’t hurt, either.

    “It was just exhilarating to see all of the fans,” receiver Victor Cruz said
    Sunday, after the Giants were through humbling the Cowboys and booking MetLife
    for at least one more date. “Essentially, part of this game is that we do it for
    them. It’s for them to be around to keep us in the game.” Read more...



    "Running game: D

    The Giants finished last in the NFL in rushing, averaging 89.2 yards per game
    and 3.5 per carry. They ran for a league-low 1,427 yards, becoming the third
    team since 1990 to make the playoffs with the fewest rushing yards. Ahmad
    Bradshaw (659 yards, 3.9) and Brandon Jacobs (571 yards, 3.8) struggled, at
    times. But all the blame cannot be placed on them. The offense line often failed
    to open holes and consistently was pushed off the ball, especially in
    short-yardage situations. However, the unit improved as the season went on,
    producing 100-plus yards in four of their final five games.

    Passing game: A

    Justin Tuck called Eli Manning and Victor Cruz "co-MVPs" on Sunday night.
    Manning had a career season, completing 61 percent of his passes for a
    Giants-record 4,933 yards to go with 29 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and a
    quarterback rating of 92.9. Cruz, a Paterson native,
    shattered the team record for receiving yards (1,536), and had 82 catches and
    nine touchdowns. Hakeem Nicks again battled injuries, but caught 76 passes for
    1,192 yards and seven touchdowns. TE Jake Ballard (38 catches, 604 yards)
    developed into a threat, and Mario Manningham was a solid target (39, 523).

    Run defense: C

    It's difficult to grade a defense that lost so many key contributors to
    injury. The maddeningly inconsistent run defense was a weakness at times, but
    finished strong. It ranked 19th in the NFL (121.2 yards per game), but limited
    the Cowboys to a season-low 49 yards when the season was on the line.

    Pass defense: C

    Another unit ravaged by injuries. Another unit that was woefully
    inconsistent, ranking 29th in the NFL (255.1 yards per game). But another unit
    that made strides when the season was at stake. The pass defense is solid when
    the front four applies pressure (a combined 11 sacks against the Jets and
    Cowboys) and sieve-like when it doesn't, yielding 1,053 passing yards and 12
    touchdowns in one three-game stretch against the Saints, Packers and Cowboys.
    But the Giants finished tied for third with 48 sacks, despite the absence of Osi
    Umenyiora (nine sacks in nine games) and Justin Tuck for a combined 11 games.
    Jason Pierre-Paul (16 1/2 sacks) carried the pass rush at times. Corey Webster
    maybe had his best season at corner. Aaron Ross was targeted by opposing

    Special teams: B

    Punter Steve Weatherford brought consistency to the punting unit (45.7 yard
    average, 25 boots inside the 20), and kicker Lawrence Tynes had a solid season
    (19-of-24 field goal attempts, 50 long), especially on kickoffs (34 touchbacks).
    The coverage units were markedly improved, despite some blips. The Giants
    averaged a solid 23.3 yards per kick return, but the punt return squad struggled
    all year, averaging an abysmal 6.1 yards per return (18 long).

    Coaching: B-plus

    A series of ravaging injuries. Inexperienced rookies thrust into key
    positions. A number of distractions, including the loss of key veterans (Rich
    Seubert, Shaun O'Hara, Steve Smith), Umenyiora's contract situation and a brutal
    schedule. Yet the Giants won the NFC East. Who in August thought that would

    — Jeff Roberts


    "Falcons (10-6) at Giants (9-7)

    At MetLife Stadium

    Sunday, 1 p.m.

    TV: Ch. 5

    Radio: WFAN-AM 660

    Early line: Giants by 3

    The Giants are playing their best at the right time, having won three of
    their past four with their proverbial backs against the wall. The pass rush tied
    a season high Sunday night with six sacks against the Cowboys. Eli Manning threw
    for 346 yards and three TDs. Victor Cruz completed a breakout regular season
    with another enormous game (six catches, 178 yards). But they will be tested by
    Atlanta’s many weapons — RB Michael Turner (1,340 yards, 11 TDs). QB Matt Ryan
    (61.3 completion percentage, 4,177 yards, 29 TDs, 12 INTs). TE Tony Gonzalez (80
    catches 875 yards). WRs Roddy White (100, 1,296) and Julio Jones (54, 959). DE
    John Abraham (9 1/2 sacks) could keep Manning on the run. But the Falcons will
    be playing outdoors for just the fifth time this season.

    On the hot seat

    The secondary. The Giants’ pass defense has played well. But the Falcons pose
    maybe its toughest test since the Packers. Atlanta ranks 10th in total offense
    (376.6) and eighth in passing (262) against a secondary that ranks 29th

    Game plan

    The pass rush must make Ryan uncomfortable and prevent him from finding his
    many weapons. And the Giants will have to shut down Turner, or else they may not
    get the chance to go after Ryan. On offense, Manning needs to continue his elite
    play and find Cruz and Hakeem Nicks against the Falcons’ vulnerable pass
    defense. Oh, and the Giants need to pray for inclement weather against an
    often-sheltered Atlanta team."

    — Jeff Roberts


    "A fistful of jersey was all Justin Tuck could grab before Tony Romo broke
    free of him.

    So many other quarterbacks had escaped his clutches this injury-ravaged
    season. So many other chances had slipped just out of reach.

    But this time, Tuck would not let Romo escape.

    He chased down the Cowboys’ quarterback from behind and stripped him Sunday
    night to seal the Giants’ 31-14 victory and the NFC East crown.

    Tuck finally looks healthy. Osi Umenyiora finally has returned. And Jason
    Pierre-Paul continues to be a monster.

    The Giants’ intimidating pass rush is whole again, tying a season high with
    six sacks against Dallas. And it’s as talented as any in team history, according
    to some of the franchise’s best at getting after the quarterback.

    Retired Giants great Michael Strahan called them the “Trifecta.”

    “Teams can adapt to one great pass rusher. Sometimes they can adapt to two,”
    said Strahan (1993-2007), the Giants’ all-time sack leader (141½), who also
    holds the NFL record for most in a season (22½). “But to have as many as the
    Giants have, that’s tough to block.

    “The sky’s the limit.”

    The foundation of the Giants’ defense historically has been its pass rush,
    the backbone of their Super Bowl teams in 1986, 1990 and 2007. Strahan called it
    the Giants’ “formula.”

    Lawrence Taylor. Strahan. George Martin. Leonard Marshall. Keith

    Now they have Tuck. Umenyiora. Pierre-Paul.

    They are among of the biggest reasons why the Giants (9-7) battled their way
    to the playoffs — where Sunday they host the Atlanta Falcons (10-6) in the
    wild-card round.

    The pass rush compares to the great ones of the
    mid-1980s and the 2007 unit.

    “I think talent-wise they are probably better,” said George Martin
    (1975-1988), who ranks fourth in franchise history in sacks (96). “Those are
    rare occasions when you have a cadre of great players across the board.”

    Keith Hamilton agreed.

    “I think when they’re on and they’re clicking, they’re right up there,” said
    Hamilton (1992-2003), who ranks
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1

  • #2

    Thanks RF!! 4 days till Showtime!


    • #3

      thanks Ro....

      getting stoked for Sunday!!!!!!!!!!

      ALL IN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      "Measure Twice......Cut Once"
      You couldn't be more full of **** if you were break dancing in a Port-a-Potty.......Kruunch


      • #4

        Anybody hear anymore on Barden being a healthy scratch? Special teams thing? Or motivational tool?
        my beer drinking team has a football problem


        • #5

          Thanks RF. The team will be ready for Sunday.


          • #6
            Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2012 - 9:20 A.M.

            [quote user="lttaylor56"]Thanks RF!! 4 days till Showtime![/quote]

            Can't wait!! I will be prepared for the weather, unlike the Falcons [:S]
            “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


            • #7
              Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2012 - 9:20 A.M.

              [quote user="ashleymarie"]Thanks RF. The team will be ready for Sunday.[/quote]

              I believe they will. There is this undercurrent in a lot of their interviews that just makes me believe they will get it done.
              “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


              • #8
                Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2012 - 9:20 A.M.

                [quote user="poppa smurph"]Anybody hear anymore on Barden being a healthy scratch? Special teams thing? Or motivational tool?[/quote]

                This isn't popular, but I think he's just not that good.
                “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


                • #9
                  Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2012 - 9:20 A.M.

                  [quote user="GameTime"]

                  thanks Ro....

                  getting stoked for Sunday!!!!!!!!!!

                  ALL IN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


                  It all starts in the Meadowlands.
                  “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


                  • #10
                    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2012 - 9:20 A.M.

                    [quote user="RoanokeFan"][quote user="poppa smurph"]Anybody hear anymore on Barden being a healthy scratch? Special teams thing? Or motivational tool?[/quote]

                    This isn't popular, but I think he's just not that good.
                    [/quote]Popular doesn't get you wins.[]

                    I was trying to figure out if Thomas got the start because of ST play.

                    my beer drinking team has a football problem


                    • #11
                      Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2012 - 9:20 A.M.

                      Thanks RF. Kiwi has had a real nice under the radar season.


                      • #12
                        Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2012 - 9:20 A.M.

                        WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY 2much 2 read


                        • #13
                          Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2012 - 9:20 A.M.

                          Thanks RF !
                          " Success is never final, but failure can be " B.P.


                          • #14
                            Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2012 - 9:20 A.M.

                            [quote user="miken609"]WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY 2much 2 read[/quote]Spoken like a true fan of Twitter!

                            Thanks RF, I need even more. []

                            No one remembers who came in second.


                            • #15
                              Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2012 - 9:20 A.M.

                              [quote user="poppa smurph"]

                              [quote user="RoanokeFan"][quote user="poppa smurph"]Anybody hear anymore on Barden being a healthy scratch? Special teams thing? Or motivational tool?[/quote]

                              This isn't popular, but I think he's just not that good.
                              [/quote]Popular doesn't get you wins.[]

                              I was trying to figure out if Thomas got the start because of ST play.


                              Could be, he has good hands
                              “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1