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The Giants Are Suddenly Unlikely to Make the Playoffs

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. Baltimore won 33-14.

All told, considering the ridiculousness of some of their late-season stirrings over the last five years, you can be forgiven for thinking that despite their struggles of late, the Giants were going to figure this out at the last minute. This is what they do, after all; making it difficult on themselves is standard operating procedure at this point. But you can only toe that line for so long; the Giants, Super Bowl glee aside, are just like any other team and can head into a downward spiral out of nowhere. That's what has happened. The Giants have collapsed. There might not be any late-season stirring left that can save them.

The Giants got their hats handed to them yesterday, losing 33–14 to the Baltimore Ravens, the second straight game in which they've been blown out by a playoff team. (They lost 34–0 to Atlanta last week.) This loss might not have been as thorough as that one, but it was certainly more disheartening. The Giants knew the importance of this game, knew that a loss would put them in a near-impossible situation ... and they came out with effort that was closer to an exhibition game, or maybe foosball in the family basement on Christmas Eve. Actually, forget that: Those games can get awfully competitive.

We'd come up with some metaphor for how the Giants played yesterday, but we really can't improve on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

“Do we deserve [to make the playoffs] by the way we played? Do we? I don’t think so, man. We went out there and pissed on our legs. That’s really all I can say.”

A vivid image, and an apt one. Eli Manning had another difficult game, but the real issue was the defense, which gave up 533 yards to a Ravens team that will never be confused with an offensive juggernaut. The Giants were down 24–7 at halftime and never felt in the game at all. That's pretty much the exact opposite of what we've come to expect of the Giants. But this Giants team: It's not like those others.

So, how do they get in the playoffs? They need to beat Philadelphia at home first. Then they need to cheer for Chicago to lose to Detroit, Minnesota to lose to Green Bay, and Dallas to lose to Washington. That's quite the trick shot, but honestly, the way they played yesterday, the least likely of those things to happen almost feels like the Giants winning. It's looking extremely likely that no New York teams will make the playoffs this year, for the first time since 2003. (It has happened only twice since 1996.) So your plans for the next few weekends just got cleared up.

Photo: Gail Burton/AP/Corbis