The 2013 Giants are playing a role many NFL teams have played before them and many teams will play for seasons to come.
Every year, teams like the Giants have their playoff hopes dashed before season’s end. Then, all that’s left to play for is personal and collective pride. They're elements that drive teams at all times, but elements that are a team's only fuel when the promise of postseason glory is gone.
Very often, these clubs are vulnerable against playoff-bound teams — the strongest of the strong with ample stores of motivation. This is the position New York finds itself in entering Sunday’s game against the 11-2 Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium: proud, but compromised.
It’s realistic to believe the Giants will be motivated to show better than they did a week ago in San Diego, when were thumped 34-17. The prospect of playing the NFC’s best team also could spark the Giants. Recall that Big Blue trailed Denver by just one point late in the third quarter in September.
Then, the Giants fell apart, losing 41-23.
The Seahawks, like the Broncos, have that kind of knockout punch. The NFC favorites do not lack in ways in which they demoralize the opposition.
Second-year quarterback Russell Wilson is already a star. Like Ben Roethlisberger, he’s exceptional when plays break down. Marshawn Lynch breaks tackles like few other tailbacks.
The Seahawks’ defense is also dominant. Seattle generates strong pass-rush pressure (35 sacks) and forces about two turnovers per game. The Seahawks also have one of the game’s very best secondaries featuring cornerback Richard Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas, both elite players.
To beat the Seahawks, the Giants will have to execute at a high level for four quarters. That doesn’t seem likely. Miscues have hurt Big Blue all season. Is that really going to stop now against this opponent?
New York’s best shot Sunday is to build a margin for error to shield them from a Seahawks flurry. Take this to the bank: Seattle is a powerhouse, and it will play its role accordingly Sunday. Wilson will throw a frozen rope 30 yards on the run like it’s nothing, Thomas will bait Eli Manning into a poor throw or the kicking game will make a big play. The Seahawks have a depth chart full of players who can make a difference in their favor in a high-pressure road game like this.
It probably won’t be easy for the Seahawks on Sunday, but it’s likely too hard for the Giants to pull the upset. Seattle can probably make a big mistake or two and still find a way to secure a win, while a textbook performance might not even be enough for Big Blue.
Prediction: Seahawks 27, Giants 17.