Giants Battling History and Bengals This Sunday

The bye week would be no fun on a two-game losing streak

For the eighth time in Tom Coughlin's nine seasons as coach, the Giants started off the second half of their season with a loss last weekend. 

While interesting, there's nothing particularly meaningful about that statistic all by itself. It is only within the larger context of Coughlin's teams playing losing football in their final eight games of the year that it becomes something more than a bit of trivia to use to impress your friends. 

Coughlin's teams are 27-38 in the second halves of seasons and they've mustered a winning record in just one of his eight years as the team's coach, a history that is as hard to understand as it is well known to anyone who follows the Giants. Because the history is so well known, Sunday's game takes on a slightly different magnitude than it might under other circumstances. 

The Bengals are the kind of team that the Giants should beat handily. They rarely beat such teams handily, choosing to burnish their own reputation as comeback artists over playing well for 60 minutes, but no one much cares as long as they beat them. 

Should their high-wire act fail and they wind up losing a game to a team like that in the first half of the season -- see the Cowboys and Eagles this year -- no one much cares. Losing a game like that in the second half, though, leads to a round of "Here we go again" across the area. 

It would be even worse if they lose this one. The Giants have a bye next week, which means they would have two weeks with two straight losses and all the negative history they represent hanging over their heads. 

When you throw in Eli Manning's recent struggles, it would be a recipe for a period of hand wringing and soul searching that would seem out of whack for a team with a two-game lead in the division and last year's Super Bowl trophy on their mantle. It would seem that way for anyone else, that is, because it was just 2010 when a 6-2 Giants team wound up missing the playoffs after going 4-4 on the back end. 

This year's NFC does not look like it would be lacking a place for a 10-6 team, but that's not really a risk anyone wants to run. It would be much easier to win this week, spend the bye getting Hakeem Nicks and Kenny Phillps healthy and putting focus on grabbing as good a playoff seed as possible. 

That can't happen with a loss this weekend so the Giants would be well advised to avoid one by any means possible.

Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

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