10 things you might not know about the Giants

Douglas Flynn

1. STAYING POWER: The Giants have developed a reputation for fading down the stretch under coach Tom Coughlin, but they are one of just four teams to make the playoffs in each of the last three years. The Pats are one of the others, along with Indianapolis and Seattle. New York is the only one of those four without a postseason win in that stretch, and the Giants have gone just 4-3 in the second half after a 6-2 start, but did lock up a playoff berth with last week's win in Buffalo. It's the fourth time New York has made the playoffs for three straight years, the last time coming in 1984-86 - when a guy named Bill Belichick was running the Giants defense.

2. HOME SWEET HOME?: The Giants have won seven straight games on the road this season, the longest single-season road run in franchise history. But they're a meager 3-4 at home, losing the last three games in the Meadowlands by a combined 94-47 score. The good news for the G-Men? With so many New Yorkers selling their tickets to Patriots fans, tonight's game might actually feel like a road game for the Giants.

3. FAMILIAR FOES, SORT OF: The Patriots have played the Giants just seven times in the regular season, the second-fewest matchups with any team that entered the NFL prior to 1995. But New England and New York have been frequent sparring partners in the preseason, meeting six times in exhibition games in the last seven years, including this year when the Pats wrapped up their preseason with a 27-20 win at Gillette. That made the clubs 3-3 in the preseason under Belichick, while the Pats hold a 4-3 edge in the regular-season meetings. Belichick is 1-0 against his old club with the Pats, with a 17-6 win in the last clash in 2003, but he is 1-2 overall against New York as a head coach including his time on the Cleveland sideline.

4. UNLIKELY HERO: A seventh-round pick out of Marshall this spring, Ahmad Bradshaw wasn't projected to be a big part of New York's ground game this season. After having just six carries for 39 yards in the first 15 games, the rookie racked up 151 on 17 rushes last week against Buffalo. That included an 88-yard touchdown scamper, the longest rushing TD in the league this year.

5. RUNNING WILD: Despite losing Derrick Ward (602 yards in eight games) to a broken left fibula earlier this month, the Giants are ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing and are coming off a monster day against Buffalo. New York piled up 289 yards on the ground against the Bills, with the club's first-ever pair of 100-yard rushers in the same game. Brandon Jacobs' big day wasn't such a big surprise as he rushed for a career-high 143 yards, joining Bradshaw in the century club. Amazingly, even with all that yardage, the Giants had just nine rushing first downs in the game.

6. FEAST OR FAMINE: Quarterback Eli Manning's workload has fluctuated wildly in recent weeks. Two games ago, he tossed a season-high 53 passes, then last week he attempted a season-low 15. Neither approach produced good numbers, as he failed to reach 200 yards in either game. Against the Redskins, he was just 18-of-53 for 184 yards, while the Bills held him to 7-of-15 for 111 yards and two picks. For the season, he's dead even on the plus-minus scale with 19 TDs and 19 interceptions.

7. SLOW STARTS, FAST FINISHES: The Giants have been shut out in the first quarter of each of the last four games. They've still managed to win three of those contests, with two victories coming on dramatic fourth-quarter comebacks. They trailed Chicago 16-7 going into the fourth on Dec. 2, but pulled out a 21-16 win. Last week, Buffalo held a 21-17 lead after three quarters, only to see New York explode for 21 points in the fourth for a 38-21 victory.

8. TRIPLE-DOUBLE: The Giants have a knack for getting to opposing quarterbacks. They lead the NFL with 52 sacks, with 11 different Giants recording at least one. New York has a chance at a rare trifecta tonight as they can have three defensive linemen reach double figures in sacks. Osi Umenyiora (13) and Justin Tuck (10) are already there, while Michael Strahan (9) needs just one to join them. It will be nothing new for Strahan, the NFL's active leader in career sacks with 141.5, who has already notched six seasons of 10-plus sacks.

9. RECEIVING ATTENTION: Plaxico Burress has barely practiced this year as he's battled a nagging ankle injury. The lack of reps hasn't hurt him though, as he leads the Giants with 66 catches for 941 yards and 10 TDs. The Pats have had his number in the past, however, as he's managed just 12 catches in four games against New England when he was a Steeler that included a pair of AFC Championship Games. Burress does have three TDs against the Patriots, proving that he's always dangerous, even when you limit his touches.

10. COACHING COMRADES: For the second time in three weeks, Belichick will be facing a coach on a New York team that he used to work with, but don't expect the post-game handshake between Belichick and Coughlin to be a topic of conversation like the Belichick-Eric Mangini midfield meeting. Belichick and Coughlin were on the Giants staff together from 1988-90, with Belichick serving as defensive coordinator and Coughlin coaching the receivers. "Tom and I worked together every day," said Belichick. "We had a good relationship. Tom was a good guy to work with. He's smart and I think we both learned a lot from each other."

The MetroWest Daily News