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Saturday, December 29, 2012
Five reasons to be optimistic

By Kieran Darcy

The Giants are playing for their playoff lives Sunday against the Eagles. Here are five reasons to be optimistic about their chances:

Returnees: Yes, the Giants are banged up -- but three key players returned to practice Thursday, after sitting out Wednesday: running back Ahmad Bradshaw, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and guard Chris Snee. And two more returned Friday: cornerback Prince Amukamara and center David Baas. Those five aren't anywhere close to 100 percent, but the fact that they're still willing to try should inspire the rest of the team. And they can still help on the field, too.

Eli: Eli Manning has not had a good season, but he's still one of the most clutch players in the league -- don't forget all those fourth-quarter comebacks last season. The Giants certainly have their backs against the wall now. There's reason to believe Manning will come through in Week 17.

Special teams: The offense and defense have sputtered in recent weeks, but the Giants have been pretty strong on special teams. They lead the NFL in kickoff return yards (1,619), thanks to rookie running back David Wilson. Kicker Lawrence Tynes leads the NFL in field goals (33), although he has missed some short ones in recent weeks. And punter Steve Weatherford is eighth in the league, averaging 47.5 yards per kick.

Pride: Don't ever underestimate the heart of a champion. The Giants have had a disappointing regular season. But there's a lot of players on this team who won a ring last year, and they surely don't want to go out with three straight losses to end 2012.

The coach: Tom Coughlin guided this team to the Super Bowl last year under the mantra of "Finish" -- the team certainly responded to it, and him, at this time last year. Can he push the right button again before the game on Sunday? Quite possible.