How Safe is New York Giants' NFC East Division Lead Down 2012 Home Stretch?

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystDecember 10, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 09:  Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants celebrates his touchdown with teammate Justin Tuck #91 in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints on December 9, 2012 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

The New York Giants moved to 8-5 with an impressive 52-27 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, and with three games to play the Giants hold a one-game edge over the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East.

However, the Giants players, coaches and fans can't breathe easy or make any postseason plans just yet, as the road that Big Blue must travel to win the division is by no means an easy one.

That road is especially bumpy the next two weeks. On Sunday, the Giants travel to face the 11-2 Atlanta Falcons, who will no doubt be looking to bounce back from last week's loss to the Carolina Panthers and avenge the thrashing that the Giants gave them in the playoffs a year ago.

Then the Giants must travel to Baltimore to meet the 9-4 Ravens, and while the birds are embroiled in some controversy with the firing of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and have dropped two games in a row, they remain a battle-tested team that generally plays much better at home.

Meanwhile, the Redskins have a much easier slate over the next two weeks that includes trips to Cleveland and Philadelphia, while the enigmatic Cowboys host the Steelers and Saints before a Week 17 matchup with the Redskins that could have huge implications inside the division.

That schedule may seem to indicate an uphill struggle for the G-Men, but not only is no one in the Big Apple about to hit the panic button, that's just how head coach Tom Coughlin likes it according to Sam Gardner of FOX Sports.

“When we start the season off, I talk about winning 16, and when we had four to go, I talked about winning four,” Coughlin said Sunday night, after New York improved to 8-5 on the year. “It’s just about winning. You’re better off if you feel that you have to win each one of these games.”

It's an interesting mentality that seems to have permeated the team, as over the past few seasons the Giants have appeared almost allergic to success, blowing big leads in the division as quickly as possible. Back them up against the wall, though, and the team comes out swinging, as evidenced by their run up and into the playoffs last year that culminated in a victory in Super Bowl XLVI.

That experience should serve them well down the stretch this year, as once again there's precious little margin for error. The Giants split their meetings with both Washington and Dallas this season, but as things stand right now, New York would lose tiebreakers to both teams based on division record.

And it may well take the division title to advance to the playoffs just as it did a year ago, because as things stand today, a sixth loss would drop the Giants behind the wild-card-leading Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks.

Granted, that all involves more than a few "what ifs", and that's not to say that I'm predicting doom and gloom for Big Blue. In fact, I expect the Giants to once again win the division, mainly because they've been in this exact situation, felt this exact same pressure and excelled under it.

With that said, it's not going to be easy, and fans of the team will probably reach for the Rolaids more than once between now and the end of the season, but that's just the price of supporting the Giants.

"Safe" isn't how this team does things.