Winning a game 42-7 against one of your rivals is not supposed to result in conflicted emotions.
It is supposed to result in great excitement and joy for the team and its fans without thoughts of anything other than victory entering the mind. This is not the case for the Giants.
Sure, thumping the Eagles and showing a little pride in the job that laid before them makes you feel good about the Giants' performance in Week 17. Those good feelings can't erase the massive missed opportunity that is the true epitaph of this season, however.
Entering Week 15, the Giants held control of the NFC East and merely needed to win out to win the division for the second straight year. They lost 34-0 to the Falcons, though, and were left needing flops by the Cowboys and Eagles to get another chance at that prize.
Even after that loss, the Giants just had to win two games to assure themselves a playoff berth. They lost 33-14 in Baltimore in Week 16, however, and that meant they needed a ton of help on Sunday even if they beat the Eagles.
The help never arrived, so the Vikings will go to the playoffs and the Giants will sit at home and watch 12 other teams vie for the Lombardi Trophy they called their own last season. All of that gives rise to just one question: Where was the Week 17 performance over the previous two weeks?
It's all well and good to compliment Tom Coughlin for getting his team to focus on ending with a win instead of their dismal playoff outlook, but you can't do that without delving into why Coughlin's team showed up totally flat in the two previous games.
And that means you can't avoid looking at Coughlin's entire body of work and wonder why he's able to push buttons well enough to win two Super Bowls while also being unable to reach his team in three of the last four seasons. It makes you want to shift the question away from what went wrong this year to what went right last year.
That's problematic because the answer has nothing to do with the Giants. They had the same record each year, but the failures of others opened a playoff door to the Giants last year that did not exist this time around.
Whatever changes the Giants make this offseason won't mean a thing if the team doesn't start playing with urgency every week of the season instead of just picking their spots the way they have over the last four years. Relying on the kindness of others isn't a winning way to conduct business because the surest way to make sure you get a ticket to the postseason dance is to earn it on your own merits.
The Giants didn't do that this year, making for an ugly end to a season that started with so much promise. Here's the rest of the good, bad and ugly from Sunday.
GOOD: Eli Manning's downturn in play from midseason on is something that should be a great concern for the Giants, but Sunday provided a strong reminder that we aren't dealing with some kind of Jets-level panic about the offense. Manning hit on big plays all day long, didn't make any of the killer decisions that sank him in past weeks and looked like the quarterback the Giants were missing for way too much of the season.
GOOD: David Wilson and Rueben Randle ended their rookie seasons on high notes, raising hope that they'll take on bigger roles for the team in Year Two. It's a good sign for a team that's going to have to say goodbye to some older players who are no longer reliable because of either health or performance.
BAD: Hakeem Nicks didn't do a thing on Sunday, ending a frustrating year that might not have happened had the Giants been more cautious with Nicks during the summer as he returned from a broken foot. All over the field, the Giants had players who got hurt, returned and then either got hurt again or remained limited for the rest of the season. Coughlin prides himself on having tough teams, but toughness can come at the expense of prudence.
GOOD: Ahmad Bradshaw's role next year is up in the air thanks to his chronic injuries and Wilson's presence, but he had a pretty vintage performance on Sunday. He ran hard and ran well all day, which would make this a pretty good way to go out as the team's feature back if that's what winds up happening.
GOOD and BAD: The defensive line looked feistier on Sunday and Justin Tuck was even able to remember his post-sack celebration despite getting almost no chances to practice it this season. All their work provided was a reminder of how awful they were for most of the season, though.
UGLY: The Giants were disappointing, but they didn't make you question why you bother rooting for a football team at all. The Eagles do make you ask those questions and so do the Jets, which makes the Giants seem like champions by comparison.