In recent years the New York Giants have made a mockery of the regular season and the so-called home-field advantage.
The regular season for Big Blue has become as meaningless as that of the NBA's for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Win and you're in...and anything's possible.
So, as the Giants stare down a tough stretch to end the season it would surprise no one if they're undaunted by how challenging a 10-win season may prove to be and how difficult another road show playoff run may be.
To be sure, the 7-4 Giants, and their road warrior quarterback Eli Manning, have no cake walk the last five weeks of the NFL season: They play three teams that made the playoffs last year—Baltimore, Atlanta and New Orleans—an upstart Redskins team and, on the last day of the season, an Eagles team that will have nothing to lose.
Playing in the NFC East, for much of Manning's career, meant the Giants, Cowboys, Eagles and Redskins took turns knocking each other off, with season sweeps a rarity (though the 'Skins have been less competitive in recent years).
All this, while dominant teams in the NFC West and NFC South ran away with their divisions.
Last year, the Giants won the division by one game, while the NFC' s other three divisions were decided by five, three and five games, meaning that December games were much less meaningful.
So, while the Giants rarely waltz into the playoffs, when they do make it to the NFL's second season they do so with a road-tested toughness few teams can match.
This season is shaping up much like their 2011 Super Bowl-winning campaign. If the Giants win more than 10 games most critics will be shocked. Playing meaningful games deep into the season has typically helped steel Big Blue for a deep playoff run; 2012 should be no different.
The Giants have no better or worse chance to repeat as any conference champion in the last decade.
What they do have on their side is the confidence they can win on the road against a favored opponent.
If that's enough to overcome another mediocre regular season remains to be seen, but for Big Blue, playing regular season "playoff games" certainly prepares them for the real playoff games.
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