Up until this point, most of the references to the Giants' 1-3 record in the second half have been of the jokey variety.
"Look at that Tom Coughlin doing it again! Setting everyone up to think that the Giants aren't any good, just so he can deliver a speech about nobody believing in them and wind up looking like a genius even though everyone always believed in them in the first place."
That might change if they lose to the Saints on Sunday. If the Cowboys or Redskins win, the Giants won't be in first place anymore and they probably won't be in the playoffs at all when the curtain drops on Week 14.
That's why Coughlin said earlier this week that the team has to win out if they want to be a playoff team. That might not turn out to be true, but it certainly isn't a risk that the Giants need to take.
Lose to the Saints and you face possible obsolescence with another loss in road games against the Ravens and Falcons. Closing with the Eagles gives plenty of reason to believe the Giants are fine if they get to that game with a shot, but the road ain't easy.
On paper, the Saints are the perfect team for them to use as a springboard to their sprint toward the playoffs. The defense can regain its bearings after Monday's disappointment in Washington and the offense can get right against a terrible defense.
The Giants defense doesn't have an easy day, mind you. With the exception of the games against the Packers, the Giants defense hasn't shown it can handle good offenses this season and the Saints have more running balance than Green Bay has shown.
Drew Brees may be playing outdoors and coming off the worst game of his career, but he's still Drew Brees and there are still a ton of weapons at his disposal. New Orleans probably hits a few big plays on Sunday, but the Giants can still regain their bearings by letting things hang out a bit more on defense.
Perry Fewell has to know that the Giants will get chewed up by playing reactive football like they did against the Redskins, so they have to be aggressive and force the Saints to hit those big plays. If they do, you know your offense should be able to keep up and you're still just a sack away from turning the game around.
Speaking of that offense, it's pretty much a dream matchup. Steve Spagnuolo may have been a genius with the Giants, but his Saints defense is a dud and Eli Manning should be able to rip it apart.
Should is the optimal word, because Manning should have been able to do that to the Redskins too. New Orleans is vulnerable everywhere and it would be a good week for the Giants to use that to turn a few field goals into touchdowns instead of the other way around.
Now's the time to put everything into place so that we can go back to laughing about the Giants' insistence on doing everything the hardest way possible.