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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 24:  Head coach Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants yells to his team during the second quarter of a game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on December 24, 2011 in East Rutherford. New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images) Tom Coughlin.

2012 nfl playoffs

The Giants’ Roller Coaster of a Season Reaches the Playoffs

After an entire regular season, the Giants remain a difficult team to figure out. Their highs and lows through the first dozen games have been well documented at this point, and even over the season's final four weeks — in which they did what was necessary to get into the playoffs — their one loss was to the weakest opponent of the bunch. So really, we can envision this team going on a run in the NFC playoffs — they did give both the Niners and Packers a good fight, right? — just as easily as we could see them being one-and-done. Before the season, we wrote that it felt like their plan was to be just good enough to make the playoffs — we assumed at the time they'd have to do it as a Wild Card, which isn't the case — then hope to get hot once the postseason began. And so here we are, pretty much hoping for that scenario to happen.

Expectations weren't as high for this team as they were for, say, the Jets, who fell comically short of the Super Bowl victory their coach publicly spoke about. And perhaps that explains why it feels to us like the team has already kind of accomplished something just by getting this far. That's technically true for any team — reaching the playoffs is better than, you know, not reaching the playoffs — but for a team with so many questions surrounding it before the season even began, simply reaching the postseason — and hosting a game, no less —  is worth appreciating, at least a little.

Of course, having said all that, it's hard to be too satisfied with a team that doesn't make some noise in the playoffs, which brings us to Sunday. And their Wild Card round matchup isn't a terrible one: Matt Ryan and the Falcons enter the game with a better record than the Giants, but they also have to deal with questions about their ability to win in the playoffs — the kinds of questions Eli Manning never really has to hear again. (Eli's only playoff wins came during the season in which the Giants won the Super Bowl, but it's hard to get too worried over a factoid that includes the phrase "during the season in which the Giants won the Super Bowl.") The Giants are the home team on Sunday, and they're the favorites, but not by much. And that sounds about right. We're only now starting to believe in this Giants team again. One hopes they don't make us regret that.

The last time the Giants qualified for the playoffs, back in 2008-09, they finished a stellar regular season — one in which they secured home-field through the NFC playoffs — with three losses in their last four games. This time around, meanwhile, they finished off what had been a frustrating, up-and-down season with three wins in their last four games. Three years ago, of course, they lost their only playoff game. One hopes that, this time, there's something to be said for entering the playoffs with a bit of momentum.

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Photo: Rich Schultz/Getty Images