Rich Hofmann: For Eagles, Dec. 19 at Giants is looming large

Giants' Justin Tuck strips ball from Donovan McNabb, who accounted for half of Redskins' six turnovers.
Giants' Justin Tuck strips ball from Donovan McNabb, who accounted for half of Redskins' six turnovers.
Posted: December 06, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The wind whips and the bones crunch. New Meadowlands, old Meadowlands, it doesn't matter. December is December up here, brutal.

Two weeks from now, it is where the NFC East is probably going to be decided.

There are details, certainly - other games, other places, and tiebreakers that will need to be untied. But when the Eagles play the Giants up here on Dec. 19, in all likelihood the winner is going to take the division title and the loser is going to be thrown into the wild-card heap for a merciless round of sorting.

And if yesterday was any measure, the Giants - a team with an inclination to fade at times - have begun to recapture their trademark. With a cold wind blowing, with the Eagles home and resting in front of their televisions, with the wilting Washington Redskins as the opponent, Brandon Jacobs ran for 103 yards, Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 97 yards and the Giants forced six fumbles (recovering four) and sacked Donovan McNabb four times and intercepted him twice.

For the Giants, it was the old-time religion in their new cathedral. After their 31-7 win, they are tied with the Eagles with an 8-4 record. Giants coach Tom Coughlin has no trouble at all recognizing the import of this particular stomping.

"To keep pace, to get the eighth win, to get to 2-2 in the division - those things were very important," Coughlin said. "We tried to have four solid quarters. I'm not sure we got it as solid as we would have liked. I thought the first half was good . . .

"Trying to get four quarters in, winning the physical battle, winning the turnover battle - I'm glad we were able to do that today."

Close to everything that could have gone wrong for the Eagles went wrong yesterday. The Giants won to even up the NFC East. Among the potential wild-card teams, the Bears (9-3), Packers (8-4) and Saints (9-3) all won. There are still a million possible eventualities, but there is a train wreck approaching for the NFC East team that does not win the division. And while you can survive a train wreck, what are the odds?

It is early to be watching the scoreboard, but there you are.

"You try not to, but, human nature, you kind of check and see what other guys are doing," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. "But we understand that we've got to control what we can control - and that's how we play on Sunday. If we go out on Sunday and handle our business, it will take care of itself. If we starting thinking about what Philly did, or Green Bay, or all that stuff, and it affects our play, we're just hurting ourselves.

"You see it but you kind of fit it in the background. We know we have an opportunity to play some of these guys and make a difference in the race, and that's what you can control."

(A word here about the Redskins: disgraceful.)

(That is all.)

It is hard to expend less energy than the Giants did yesterday. They scored on their first two drives and never came close to perspiring. They mauled the Redskins, ran over them, ran through them, and then just kind of cruised. As Jacobs said, "A lot of people don't like to tackle in the cold." As Redskins coach Mike Shanahan lamented, "In the first half, it was embarrassing the way we tackled."

The Redskins were without Albert Haynesworth, the disgruntled defensive tackle, who might have made a bit of a difference. Haynesworth was deactivated after being ill late in the week and reportedly showing up late for at least one meeting as well. For his part, Haynesworth said he wanted to play. Other than that, everybody in Washington is on the same page - and McNabb now has 12 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, and no visible means of support.

(Another word here about the Redskins: comical.)

(That really is all.)

Next week, the Giants have an interesting game at Minnesota - interesting mostly because it might or might not be the official end of the Brett Favre era with the Vikings. Just know that the Giants will arrive at the Metrodome well-rested - not as well-rested as the Eagles when they play at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday night, but you get the point.

The Giants' receiving corps is injured beyond recognition. Their offensive line is patchwork at best. They used a bunch of tight ends yesterday and were very conservatively buttoned up with their offense. It evoked a very old-timey feel for this franchise.

When they are good, this is what the Giants tend to look like at the end of the season.

"It's the time," Coughlin said. "It's December in the National Football League, it's time. If you're going to have an opportunity to get into position, it's now . . . Many, many big games down the stretch."

And Dec. 19 most of all.

Send e-mail to

hofmanr@phillynews.com,

or read his blog, The Idle Rich, at

http://go.philly.com/theidlerich.

For recent columns go to

http://go.philly.com/hofmann.

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