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The Giants' True Identity Will Be Revealed This Week

Cowboys game offers a chance for Giants to define themselves

By Josh Alper
|  Tuesday, Dec 27, 2011  |  Updated 11:44 AM EDT
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Living up to expectations has been hard for the Giants.

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We'll give a shiny dime to anyone who can figure out the 2011 New York Giants.

After 15 games and countless opportunities to define themselves, it remains impossible to come up with any kind of accurate prediction abut what the Giants will do when they hit the field for a do-or-die date with the Cowboys this Sunday. Everything they've done this season defies easy characterization.

You'd like to say that they are going to show up with the swarming defense that played well enough to cast doubt about Mark Sanchez's future with the Jets, but then you'd have to completely ignore the fact that Rex Grossman shredded them twice this season. The only consistent thing about the defense this season has been their inconsistency and overwhelming a terrible Jets offense isn't a sign that all the problems have been resolved.

After winning games like they did on Sunday or the one against the Patriots earlier this season, the Giants like to make a lot of noise about how they take great joy in silencing the doubters. But the only reason people doubt them is because they fail to show up and play as often as they put forth great efforts.

Giving the doubters a punch in the face isn't an option this week anyway. The Giants are the favorites because they've already beaten the Cowboys this year and because they will be on their home field.

Playing at home hasn't been any great advantage to these Giants, though, and, if anything, playing in Jersey seems to bring out the worst in them. That goes back to last season when a 1-7 Cowboys team, fresh off firing their coach and without Tony Romo, routed the Giants in a game that wound up keeping them out of the playoffs.

Throughout Tom Coughlin's tenure, the Giants have befuddled anyone who thought they could figure out what they would do in any given week. That worked out well for them in 2007, but it has usually been a case of the team making people wonder how so many talented players could wind up playing so poorly all at once.

Coughlin has had plenty of moments where his team has exceeded expectations and just as many moments when they have fallen well short of them. What they rarely do is meet expectations and that's what they are being asked to do against a Cowboys team that they should beat on Sunday night.

That's what essentially makes Sunday's game a referendum on the identity of this team. If the Giants win, they will have proven that they can find a way to win no matter how difficult a corner they have painted themselves into over the course of a season.

If they lose, though, it will be impossible to ignore the overarching theme of the last three seasons. They will be underachievers who aren't able to rise to the occasion coached by men who can't summon the level of competition necessary to succeed in the biggest moments.

This is their chance to erase the memories of the last home game at the old stadium, DeSean Jackson's punt return and the playoff humiliation against the Eagles three years ago. Ever since ending the Patriots' perfect season in Arizona, the Giants have wanted to see themselves as the team that can pull off the impossible.

On Sunday, they just have to do the possible and that means overcoming their biggest weakness.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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