I think you can be forgiven for indulging in a little defeatism following the Panthers game. It was a game so ugly it forced us to consider the possibility that these Falcons weren't just a little lucky to get to their current 11-2 record, but a lot lucky. That's not pleasant to consider.
Ultimately, I believe we're making too much hay out of horse manure. One bad regular season game has rarely if ever doomed a contending team. It's the accumulation of ugly games and bad losses over the course of a season that should cause hand-wringing. It's having a season that amounts to a harrowing roller coaster ride that leaves you exhausted and questioning what your team is capable of.
That brings us to the New York Giants.
The Giants terrify people because of their wild swings in effectiveness. When they're playing lights-out football like they did against the Saints last weekend, they look wholly unstoppable. They have enough weapons on both sides of the ball to beat anyone in the NFL on a good day, and underestimating the Giants has left a lot of flaming wreckage on the field over the past decade. I'm not suggesting that the Falcons are going to thump the Giants, because chances are very good they are not.
What I am suggesting is that the Giants are beatable, and we may have built them up to a degree that's unwarranted.
We all operate on the recency bias to some extent, where events that have happened not long ago tend to be unusually prominent in our minds and inform our opinions. That's exactly what is happening with the Giants, who won a Super Bowl last year and are being remembered as towering manbeasts in football jerseys by basically everyone. That just wasn't the case.
The Giants barely edged the Patriots in the Super Bowl. They played a miserable first half against the Falcons before catching fire in the second half. They went 9-7 in the regular season, playing such haphazard football that some were calling for Tom Coughlin to be fired. That seemed defensible because the previous three seasons the Giants went 10-6 (missing the playoffs in a tough NFC East), 8-8 and 12-4 with an ugly loss to the Eagles in the playoffs. If you didn't know they had won a Super Bowl in 2007 and were annually feted by pundits, you might be tempted to compare them to that lovable bunch of underachievers playing in Atlanta.
That's been the case again this year. The Giants are a robust 8-5, but they've lost some very ugly football games to some middling football teams. The Redskins are good and we shouldn't expect any game between those two teams to look pretty, but they also lost 24-17 to the Cowboys in Week 1, 19-17 to the lowly Eagles in Week 4, 24-20 to the Steelers in Week 9 and were on the wrong end of a 31-13 whupping against the Bengals in Week 9. We tend to fixate on the best games for the Giants because they're a fine football team with a history of winning, but they're about as far from invincible as any contender gets. Including the Falcons.
You wouldn't be smart to place money against the Giants making a deep playoff run, or even winning their second consecutive Super Bowl. They're too talented, too savvy and too well-coached for that to be an intelligent bet. But we're letting fear of a loss cloud our judgement if we believe the Giants are fated to win in the Georgia Dome this weekend.
The game on the field will tell the tale. What are your thoughts?