They Might Not Be Giants

How'd you like to have been stranded in Green Bay with Tom Coughlin on Sunday night?

In the last five quarters, he's watched his team give up 73 points. His defense has allowed 765 yards in those 75 minutes of football - and that's not counting the punt return heard 'round the world.

His vaunted pass defense got shredded Sunday for more than 500 yards and four touchdowns by Aaron Rodgers, two weeks removed from a concussion. His own quarterback threw four interceptions, and both of his featured running backs lost fumbles. It was a total team effort that turned a 14-14 game in the second quarter into a 45-17 defeat.

Coughlin's frustrations were bad enough that he threw the challenge flag on Brandon Jacobs' third-quarter fumble on the sideline, the product of a perfect punchout from behind by linebacker Clay Matthews after a 20-yard chase. The coach was blindly hoping that one of the Packers trying to recover the ball might have had his foot out of bounds while touching it. They hadn't, it was the Giants' second challenge, and so he didn't have one when a clearly erroneous later call gave the Packers an interception while it was still a two-touchdown game.

There aren't a lot of good nights to be stranded in Green Bay, but this would be one when the team might prefer to avoid Coughlin's glare by walking to Waukesha.

The blizzard that blanketed the Eastern Seaboard kept the Giants and Jets from returning to the New York area after their games in the Midwest. The Jets, though losers to Chicago in a shockingly entertaining 38-34 shootout, knew within minutes of the final gun that they were in the playoffs thanks to Jacksonville's overtime loss to Washington. In a goofy season that has run the gauntlet - or maybe the gamut - from "Hard Knocks" to pretty feet, it was somehow appropriate that the Jets' beleaguered offense shone most brightly in defeat while backing into the postseason.

The snow gave the Philadelphia Eagles an unexpected two nights off at home when their Sunday night game was postponed to Tuesday night. The break was made sweeter when the Giants' loss gave Philly the NFC East crown. The Eagles still have a shot at the No. 2 seed. They need to win their last two home games against Minnesota and Dallas and have the Bears lose Sunday in Green Bay.

The Giants will be pulling hard for Chicago in that NFC North matchup. New York has to win at Washington and hope that either the Bears defeat the Packers or New Orleans loses both of its last two games - Monday night in Atlanta and then Sunday at home against Tampa Bay. Quite a fall for a team that appeared to have a home playoff game sewn up, with potential for a first-round bye, before the fateful fourth quarter last week at the Meadowlands.

The biggest loser of the weekend was San Diego, beaten in Cincinnati. The Chargers left themselves no margin with their 2-5 start, and now the team with the third-best point differential in the NFL will have to watch the postseason on TV.

While a team that has outscored its opposition by 114 points in 15 games is going to miss the playoffs, another that has allowed 107 more points than it scored is still alive. That's Seattle, which will win the NFC West if it defeats St. Louis at home on Sunday night. That's the fifth-worst differential in the league for a team that needs only to beat its 7-8 divisional rival at home to host a first-round playoff game.

Somewhere, Pete Rozelle, that legendary champion of parity, is smiling. Vince Lombardi, meanwhile, is spinning furiously.

Jeff Neuman is a sportswriter and editor, and co-author of A Disorderly Compendium of Golf. His columns for RealClearSports appear on Monday and Thursday.

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