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Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Giants aren't good enough to relax

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

When the Patriots face the Giants on Saturday night at the Meadowlands, the Pats will be motivated by the chance to complete the NFL's first 16-0 regular season. The Giants, meanwhile, have little to gain, having already clinched a wild-card playoff spot in the NFC. So should the Giants rest their starters, or should they go all-out in hopes of denying the Pats their place in history? Mike Sando and Jeffri Chadiha take opposite sides.

Sando's view: Play 'em. For Chadiha's viewpoint, click here.

Some NFL teams are good enough to coast into the playoffs, saving their best players for another day. The New York Giants probably aren't one of them.

Give the Giants a measure of credit. They found a way to win in Buffalo, securing the NFC's fifth seed and a trip to Tampa Bay in the wild-card round. The Giants even joined New England, Indianapolis and Seattle as the only teams to reach the playoffs in each of the past three seasons. Bravo.

Eli Manning
Giants QB Eli Manning hasn't earned the right to take a game off and rest for the playoffs.

But let's not fool ourselves. Those other teams have reached Super Bowls in the past three seasons. The Tom Coughlin-era Giants haven't won a playoff game.

Those other teams have quarterbacks with multiple Pro Bowls on their résumés. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Matt Hasselbeck inspire confidence in their teammates. Eli Manning's recent play inspired his general manager to use the term "skittish" in describing him.

This is no time for the Giants to relax by resting their starters in the regular-season finale against New England. Yes, Coughlin might be wise to play it safe with injured players such as Plaxico Burress. He should definitely monitor the snaps of aging veterans. But the Giants' able-bodied starters, starting with their quarterback, need the work.

Manning fumbled five times in Buffalo. He has completed 45 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and eight interceptions over the past five games. The Giants won three of the five and they even won them on the road, but they won't be seeing Chicago, Philadelphia or Buffalo in the playoffs.

The Giants won't go far if they can't trust their quarterback. How can they trust their quarterback coming off a five-fumble game and a brutal five-game stretch?

The last thing Manning and the Giants need is two weeks to think about, hear about and read about how poorly the quarterback is playing. What this team and QB need is what they get in Week 17: a practice game against a legitimate opponent, and a chance to improve with the attention on the other team.

New England's quest for a perfect regular season is the big story. Manning and the Giants have a chance to make history while putting themselves in better position to avoid becoming history. Besides, it's tough to rest on your laurels when you don't have any.

Mike Sando covers the NFL for ESPN.com.