Fire will keep Giants' dreams off ice

PARAMUS, N.J. -- As Justin Tuck signed autographs for a toy drive, several fans told the defensive end to beat Dallas on Sunday night.

One even screamed, "Let's beat the Cowboys this Sunday!" as he walked by in Garden State Plaza.

"I love it," Tuck said.

If Tuck can get his teammates to bring that kind of energy and desire in the remaining four games, the New York Giants likely will be playoff-bound.

When the Giants (6-6) want to play with passion, fire and fight, they can play with anybody, anywhere. They took the undefeated Green Bay Packers to the last play of the game in a 38-35 loss that injected the team with confidence and swagger. And they won at New England last month with the same kind of mentality.

The Giants, who have lost four straight games since the Patriots victory, know that if they get their heads straight, they can beat Dallas (twice), Washington and the Jets -- their remaining opponents.

There are plenty of playoff scenarios, but if the Giants win their remaining three division games, that would put them in the playoffs.

"If we go out there and play with the intensity and emotion that we had this last Sunday, man, those teams are in trouble," safety Antrel Rolle said on his weekly spot on WFAN. "Those teams are in trouble."

"I can't help but notice the fight we had as a team," Rolle added of the Giants' play against the Packers. "We fought for a full 60 minutes, which is something that I can't say we have done all year, to be honest with you."

The Giants are one big mystery. They love to turn the emotion switch on and then off, and there's no explanation as to why this happens. The Giants can go into New England and one-up Tom Brady, then come out flat at home against hated rival Philadelphia.

"I have spent a lot of lonely nights in my house wondering that same exact question," Tuck said when asked why the Giants can't consistently bring the same energy and effort that they did against Green Bay. "I am telling the truth. I didn't get a lot of sleep [Sunday night], and it wasn't because we lost to Green Bay."

"I am always looking beyond what it is, as far as physical or mental. Physically, I think we can play with anybody in the country. Mentally, we sometimes have those lapses. Why? I don't know. I am just as guilty as the next guy."

The Giants can point back to losses to Washington, Seattle and Philadelphia in which they came out less than inspired, and it cost them dearly.

Tuck and Rolle admit that sometimes even fiery players arrive to the stadium flat on game days. Rolle said there are times when he comes out flat -- and he is one of the more animated, fiery players on the roster.

"You just don't have that spark some nights," Tuck said. "Some nights … you got to mind-trick yourself. It is tough sometimes. That is what you got to do; it is hard to get up every Sunday when your body is beat up.

"It is kind of like Groundhog Day. I know a lot of people can't understand that. They say, 'You make a million dollars to play a game,' but it is what it is."

The Giants say they don't need any Jedi mind tricks to get them to understand what's at stake Sunday night. They know their playoff destiny is in their hands again. Last year, they squandered it with crushing losses to the Eagles and Packers.

Now they can do something about their playoff fate again. And if the Giants suffer another collapse down the stretch and miss the postseason for a third straight year, Tuck just might need some professional help.

Trying to figure out the Giants can do that, even to a tough, 6-5, 274-pound defensive end whose team lost 49-24 in New Orleans, then came within seconds of stopping Green Bay.

"I know the Saints are a great football team, but no one will say the Saints are better than the Packers," Tuck said. "So how do we come out one week and play like we did [against the Saints] and then come out this week and play like we did? And two weeks ago, played like we did against Philly?"

"It doesn't make any sense to me. Do I need to go see a shrink?"