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Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Black and Blue all over: Interpreting Coughlin

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Reading between the lines, it sounds as if New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin won't go overboard with his veterans Sunday at the Metrodome.

This will come as good news to Minnesota, who need a victory over the Giants to clinch the NFC North, and bad news to Chicago. The Bears are hoping for a Giants victory, combined with a win of their own at Houston, to grab the NFC North division title for themselves.

But if you read my colleague Matt Mosley's take over on the NFC East blog, you'll see Coughlin talking about "medical people" and doing "the best thing for our football team."

Coughlin insists that "we play every game to win" and that "we have always believed at this time of the year it is important to be playing your best football." But ultimately, Coughlin said: "We would like to continue to do that but we will do the right thing and the smart thing [for] our team."

It's not as if the absence of a few Giants starters would guarantee a Vikings victory. But the mentality of sitting or limiting starters tends to permeate the rest of a roster. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times, Bears coach Lovie Smith made it clear he hopes the Giants play a normal game but added:

''We shouldn't have to think about what someone else is doing or hope someone does something to help us.''

This will be a topic of conversation all week, but I think it's pretty clear we'll see the likes of quarterback Eli Manning, tailback Brandon Jacobs and defensive end Justin Tuck on the sidelines pretty early Sunday at the Metrodome.

Continuing a look around the NFC North on Christmas Eve morning: