The life-cycle of an NFL team can be a fascinating thing.
Consider how the perceptions of last year’s Super Bowl participants has evolved since the big game. At that time the New York Giants were a lucky wild card team on a hot streak, now they are the league's alpha dog. The New England Patriots in February were on the brink of history, while the current Pats team is more boring than anything else. Such is the ebb and flow in the NFL.
At 11-1 the Giants are sitting pretty. It might require a cadre of thigh-shooting terrorists to put a hole in the G-Men's chances to win the division and earn a first round playoff bye. With four games to go, they are in the position teams dream to be in. Unfortunately, recent playoff history shows this type of dominance is rarely rewarded with a Super Bowl championship.
Look at last season. The New England Patriots were undefeated at this time last year, putting up mind boggling offensive numbers, and everyone was talking about their place in history. But thins changed over the last few games of the season. The Patriots took everyone's best shot and chinks in the armor began to show. They still earned a trip to the Super Bowl, but one wonders if the outcome of that final game might have been different if they had lost to the Giants during their regular season finale.
The season before New England came up short, the 2006 Indianapolis Colts won the Super Bowl. But a year prior to winning the Super Bowl was Peyton Manning's record-breaking MVP campaign of 2005, when, like the Pats, the Colts lost when it mattered most. Then in 2006 the Colts were just as good, but not as clear a target after taking some regular season losses. But no one remembered those losses when Manning was holding the Lombardi trophy.
In 2005 the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl, a year after they had been the dominant team running up a regular season record of 15-1 before getting bounced from the playoffs. In 2006 the Steelers lost some regular season luster with a handful of losses, but they were at their best when it mattered on their way to a Super Bowl win over the Seattle Seahawks.
NFL players are physical freaks, but still human. It makes sense that a team dominating most of the regular season would lose some of their edge right when they need it most. It's natural law, and helps maintain the cycle of balance in the NFL.
With four games left, the pressure's on Giants coach Tom Coughlin to keep the team focused on the prize. A loss, even two, might be the best help he could get in achieving that goal, especially since it probably wouldn't affect their playoff seeding. This could be a rare scenario where a loss leads to a win-win situation.