New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin doesn't care that Donovan McNabb has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns this season. He's seen McNabb's act way too many times over the years to think his Giants might catch a break Sunday in the Meadowlands.
McNabb has an 11-7 overall record against the Giants, and he's riding a four-game winning streak against them dating to November 2008. Coughlin and his players were just as shocked as everyone else when McNabb was traded from the Eagles to another NFC East rival, the Washington Redskins, this past offseason. And it doesn't sound like Coughlin has recovered. Asked to describe his reaction to the Easter news, Coughlin deadpanned, "My thoughts can't be expressed at this time."
McNabb has always had a certain comfort level against Coughlin's Giants. And he hasn't been afraid to rub it in a bit, as evidenced by his impromptu phone call on the Giants sideline in January of 2009. A picture of McNabb making that mock call was hanging in the Giants' locker room last season, but he beat them twice anyway.
In 18 regular-season games against the Giants, McNabb has thrown for 25 touchdowns and six interceptions. Over the past four games, he's completed 63 percent of his passes for 923 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. Of course, he was throwing to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin in those games instead of Santana Moss and Anthony Armstrong. On Wednesday, he was asked to explain why he's had so much success against the Giants.
"It's just a comfort level in the team that you're with and the things that you're able to do," McNabb told reporters. "Guys around me made plays and when you're playing against a team twice a year, you have a feel with them, like what they're going to do, their defense's fronts and blitzes, and the answers to some of their questions.
"That's something that is obviously a lot different being with a different ball club, but when you play against a team for 11 years, you build a good relationship with them as far as what they're doing and the defensive coordinators. It's going to be a battle, and it's going to be a lot of fun."
It should also be noted that the Giants have owned the Redskins, winning seven of the past eight matchups. Most of the games haven't been that competitive, but something tells me Coughlin won't dwell on that message this week. The Giants were riding high last month at 6-2 when they hosted a downtrodden Cowboys team that was 1-7 at the time and playing its first game under interim coach Jason Garrett. The Cowboys won that game, and the Giants lost the next week in Philadelphia.
A team can recover from a two-game slide in November, but it can't happen in December. It doesn't matter that Washington's only 5-6. This is the most important game of the season for the Giants. If they win Sunday, I like their chances in Minneapolis the next week. They could have a three-game winning streak heading into a Dec. 19 rematch against the Eagles at New Meadowlands Stadium.
The Eagles get to finish the season with home games against the Vikings and Cowboys, while the Giants will have to travel to Green Bay and Washington. With the way things are going in the NFC North and NFC South, there's a decent chance an NFC East team could miss the playoffs with a 10-6 record. And that's one more reason why Coughlin is reminding his players of McNabb's past greatness.
"He's still Donovan McNabb and he has a very, very strong arm, he will pull it down and run," Coughlin said. "I don't think there's any difference in terms of how you prepare for Donovan, having to make sure that you try to force him to step up in the pocket and you try to put as much pressure as you can right away."
The Giants may have saved their season with a late drive against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But a loss at home to the Redskins on Sunday could cancel out everything they gained in that win. If the Giants can beat Washington this week, there's a great chance that wide receiver Steve Smith will return against the Vikings. And Hakeem Nicks shouldn't be too far behind.
I think both the Giants and Eagles will be 9-4 heading into their game Dec. 19, and then we'll call that the most important game of the season.