Tom Curran, NBCSports.com
The sports media can be viewed as miserable and bitter in those hard-bitten Eastern cities like New York, Boston and Philly. They're not happy up there unless they're miserable or they're making someone else miserable. Always looking for a looming cloud at the end of every perfect horizon. Negative, negative, negative.
I mean just look at a sampling of Thursday's headlines looking ahead to Sunday's Divisional Playoff game between the Giants and Eagles.
From the New York Daily News...
# "Giants Fired Up for Home Rematch With Eagles..."
# "Prospects of a Punch Up Brings Out Best In Giants"
# "Giants Couldn't Have Done Better Picking Eli Manning in the 2004 Draft"
# "With Knee Better, Brandon Jacobs Set to Make Giant Difference".
From the New York Post...
# "Jacobs Jacked to be Back"
# "Eli's Growth the Difference in Playoff Mojo".
And, finally, from Newsday: "Umenyiora Plans to Visit Giants in Tampa".
Tampa would be the place where the Giants are playing an AFC representative in the Super Bowl. Apparently, it's already been agreed upon, so forget about those divisional playoff games this weekend. Osi and the Giants are getting together in T-Bay. Preordained, apparently.
Of course, we're being wise. The fawning is at a fever pitch, which is understandable. New York won Super Bowl XLII last February, then came back in 2008, claimed the NFC's No. 1 seed with a clutch Week 16 win over the Panthers and finished up 12-4.
But you'd think it might be a bigger concern - especially in a Chicken Little climate like New York's - that the Giants lost three of their final four games.
One of those four losses came to Sunday's opponent, the Eagles. That loss came at Giants Stadium, in a game where the Giants offense was held scoreless for the first 59:40 of the game.
Apparently, it isn't. Which is ironic. Because as this year's Giants team heads listlessly into the playoffs without a peep of concern, last year's 10-6 Giants team actually went into the playoffs with less fanfare, but more momentum. They won three of five in December and the second loss they took was a 38-35 defeat by the Patriots in the final regular-season game.
And we all know how last year's January and February went for the Giants.
There's been a lot of downplaying going on in Gotham. The December swoon? Big deal. They lost by one to the Vikings in the season finale when they didn't play their starters for most of the game. The Eagles caught them when they were flat. The Cowboys had more to play for. And, in the one game they had to have against Carolina, they showed up. On that night, the Giants churned out a message-sending 301 rushing yards.
But there should be concern. As the 2007 Giants clearly demonstrated, how you're playing late matters a lot. And, as they also showed, sometimes it easier to play with abandon and fearlessness when nobody expects anything out of you.
The Giants are going to be playing a team Sunday that's very much like they were last year. An Eagles team that finished 9-6-1, that sputtered and was left for dead and had a bottom-out moment. A team that is playing with the "all it takes is one punch" swagger that should be terrifying to any top seed.
New York is not taking Philly lightly.
Speaking of the 20-14 loss, Giants coach Tom Coughlin said, "We didn't rush the ball, we didn't pass the ball, we didn't have many snaps. They had the ball, they had time of possession. So it was disappointing from that standpoint. We had a drive at the end of the game that put us a little bit closer, but it didn't say much about that game."
Said Giants defensive lineman Barry Cofield, "We lost the game at home to a divisional rival. That hurts enough. And we pride ourselves at stopping the run, so when a back runs for 100 yards (as Eagles running back Brian Westbrook did), we take that personally. They were able to control the clock and gave us a taste of our medicine of what our offense does to other people. They flipped the script on us."
An apt choice of words because, as you look at the historic run of the Giants in 2007 and what the Eagles are putting together right now, it seems more script-flipping could be on the way.
And if that happens, you can bet some switches will get flipped among the adoring New York media.