I was not surprised to read the comments by New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck regarding the comments by Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews. If you haven't been paying attention, Matthews said the Packers beat themselves in the divisional playoffs last year and effectively handed the Giants the game by playing poorly at the wrong time. Tuck responded thusly:
"Thank you for giving us the game, Clay," Tuck deadpanned. "I appreciate it a lot."
"Did they play their best ball?" Tuck continued. "I don't know. But we won the football game. I don't think they gave us anything."
Of course they didn't. You can't lose a home playoff game by 17 points coming off a bye week and say, "We gave that one away." The reason the Packers (and the Falcons, and the 49ers, and the Patriots) didn't play their best games in the playoffs against the Giants was that the Giants were playing great. In any violent land-acquisition skirmish, a key to victory is finding ways to diminish the effectiveness of your opponent's attack and/or defense. I mean, did Napoleon just have a bad day at Waterloo, or did the Prussians have something to do with it?
Anyway, I found it funny because I remembered an exchange I had with Tuck while I was at Giants camp in Albany a couple of weeks ago. We were talking about the division, and I mentioned that it seemed as though a lot of people were going to pick the Eagles again this year.
"Good," he said. "I think the Eagles and the Cowboys should be the favorites. They're very talented. They have better offense than we have. They have better defense than we have. Their special teams are better. Their coaches are better. Their fans are better."
Yes, you can hear the sarcasm dripping from his words. Tuck made it clear that he's used to (and fed up with) analysis that underestimates the Giants and that any hype surrounding his division rivals is something he works hard to put out of his mind.
"I'm going to stop using the word 'hate,' because that got me in trouble the last time," Tuck told me. "Honestly, I don't know. I go about the game the way I go about the game. I don't worry about what the Eagles do. I don't worry about what the Cowboys do. They're both good football teams. The Redskins got better. They're good. But I'm going to take my group against anybody in the league, and that's just how I feel."
I know you guys want predictions from me, but I honestly don't know who I'm going to pick to win this division. It's either going to be the Eagles or the Giants. I just think the Cowboys are a notch behind them both and the Redskins are still not quite on that level. But I'm sincerely torn between the Eagles and the Giants. I think both of them will be better than they were in last year's regular season. Everywhere I go, NFL personnel people tell me the Eagles could be the best team in the league, and I feel as though it'd be easy to pick them. But the memory of the way they played in big spots last year, combined with the memory of what the Giants did after I spent the season underestimating them, gives me pause. So I'm taking the few weeks I have left to decide and hoping something happens to make it a bit clearer.
As I do ponder, though, I find both comfort and humor in the knowledge that, no matter who I pick, Justin Tuck isn't going to give a rat's rear end.