When Robbie Gould's overtime field goal sailed through the uprights on Monday night in Chicago it meant that Sunday's game in Minnesota will mean something for the Vikings. They'll need a win to guarantee the NFC North title and a playoff spot. The Giants, however, don't play a meaningful game until January 10th when they'll host someone in their first playoff game.
That raises the question of whether the Giants should expose their starting lineup to injury. Some have drawn comparisons to last season when the Giants went for broke in Week 17 against the Patriots, even though they had secured a playoff spot already. It was much different, however. The Giants were trying to play themselves into form and there was the historical nature of trying to stop the Patriots from completing an undefeated season.
Giving the Vikings a good game so the Bears have a fair chance at the division crown doesn't carry the same weight. The Giants have been dealing with a lot of wounds down the stretch, and taking care of their own must take precedence over fighting the good fight. Watching Justin Tuck leave Sunday night's game and seeing Fred Robbins and Brandon Jacobs hobbling the last few weeks should make Tom Coughlin realize that there are times to take your foot off the gas.
Play the healthy guys, for a while at least, and then give the backups a healthy dose of action. There's going to be no way to avoid some rust, that's the only downside of a first round bye, but giving David Carr, Ahmad Bradshaw and others a run will mean you've covered yourself a bit in case the worst happens in two weeks time. Coughlin's aversion to coasting is understandable, but this isn't the right time to make a point about how much every game matters.
Yes, the same argument could have been made last season and, obviously, it was wrong. Remember, though, that the Giants lost Shaun O'Hara and Kawika Mitchell to injury in that Patriot game. Each only missed the playoff opener with Tampa, but the team might not be so lucky this time around. It was worth it, though, for what that game meant to the Giants' ability to win a Super Bowl.
This time around, however, there's more of a chance that the Giants do something to hinder that ability, which is why the Giants must be cautious in Minnesota.