If you got a list of all the obstacles the Giants had to manuever over the last two seasons and didn't know what team was being described, would you think they'd have won a Super Bowl and started the next season 11-1? It's doubtful. From an embattled coach at the start to a gunshot in the thigh at the end, the Giants never wavered and reaped many a reward.
That consistency may have been struck a fatal blow in Dallas Sunday night. The back injury suffered by right tackle Kareem McKenzie could prove to be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Through all of the injuries, suspensions and retirements, the offensive line has taken virtually every snap together and paved the way to an awful lot of wins. McKenzie's not the best player on the line, he got his rear end handed to him by the Cowboys before he left with injury, but the sum of the Giants line was much greater than the individual parts.
Plaxico Burress was going to be hard enough to replace as defenses adjusted to a less explosive Giant offense. An ailing Brandon Jacobs made it clear that Earth meant more to the team's success than Wind and Fire. Throw in McKenzie's absence and you've got the makings of a disaster against the Panthers next week. A loss gives the Panthers home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and could put the Giants' first-round bye into jeopardy as well.
You'd like to go into a game like that with some momentum behind you, but the Giants are limping toward the finish line. The Cowboys defense humiliated them with eight sacks, a sure sign that the offense isn't clicking without all the missing parts. The Panthers, especially Julius Peppers, will attack them exactly the same way. McKenzie alone wouldn't stop them, but losing him, on top of everything else, would create more than the Giants could bear.