Collapsing Giants Face Key Game Next

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Photo: Getty Images

Before you start panicking about the Giants’ 20–8 loss last night to the hated Cowboys, it’s worth noting that, as ugly as it was, it didn’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things. The Panthers’ dominating win over the Broncos yesterday essentially made the Giants game statistically irrelevant; the Giants Stadium matchup next week between the Giants and the Panthers will decide who gets home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. Nothing that happened last night was going to change that.

Now that you’re off the ledge, let’s talk you back onto it: The Giants look like they’re collapsing. For the second consecutive week, Eli Manning and the offense were woefully inept, and the defense, mightily striving as they were, couldn’t overcome the disadvantage. When a team struggles offensively as much as the Giants have been, it’s human nature to cast some blame on the quarterback. And while Manning has been anything but effective — he has thrown for only 314 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in the two losses — his play has been more a symptom of the problem than the cause of it. Plaxico Burress might not have been having a great season before his suspension, but his presence and height advantage took pressure off the other receivers, pressure that’s now jamming them into ineffectiveness. And the importance of Brandon Jacobs, who missed last night’s game, has never been more in evidence, either. The Giants offensive line has been the best in football all season long, but right now, Manning doesn’t have any weapons. Meanwhile, the Cowboys look like they’ve come full circle after all their turmoil and are playing the best they have all season. Or maybe the Giants just made them look that way.

The Giants look exhausted, and with good reason. Now that they’ve lost two in a row after the mid-season seven-game win streak, we’re reminded that they haven’t had a week off since September. After next week’s Carolina game If the Giants beat Carolina, week seventeen against Minnesota will be meaningless, a perfect time to rest everyone’s weary bones before another week off for the playoff bye. But this Sunday’s game still looms. The Panthers have the dominant look that the Giants had most of the season. Now that we think about it, yeah: It might be time to start panicking.