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New York Giants (10-6) at Tampa Bay (9-7)

January 3, 2008 by  

New York Giants Defense
8th Ranked against the Run
11th Ranked against the Pass
New York Giants Offense
4th Ranked in Rushing
21st Ranked in Passing

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense
17th Ranked against the Run
1st Ranked against the Pass
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense
11th Ranked in Rushing
16th Ranked in Passing

The Giants have played the Buccaneers sixteen times in the regular season and have won ten of those contests, nine of them by seven points or less. But although New York has never met Tampa Bay in the playoffs, they are well acquainted with Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia in post season games. Over the last six years the Giants have made it to the post season four times on a wild card berth including their entry as the fifth seed this year. And of their three previous wild card games, Garcia was the opposing quarterback in two of them.

In 2002 Garcia and a brash young wide receiver named Terrell Owens led the 49ers back from 38-14 deficit late in the third quarter to beat the Giants 39-38 in the second greatest comeback in pro football playoff history. It was a game marked by controversy after which the NFL’s director of officiating Mike Pereira made a rare public statement that a blown call by the officials with no time left on the clock wrongfully deprived the Giants of a shot at a game winning field goal. San Francisco went on to lose their divisional playoff game to Tampa Bay by a 24 point margin.

In 2006, after struggling just to reach a 5-5 record the Eagles lost their five time pro-bowl quarterback to a season ending knee injury. A journeyman backup quarterback came in to pick up the pieces and won four of his next five games including huge wins in three consecutive weeks against their division rivals the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys, to bring the Eagles an NFC East championship. The veteran quarterback continued on to beat the Giants in the first NFC wild card game, which ended after he pulled the Eagles into position to score a game winning field goal with no time left on the clock. His name was Jeff Garcia.

Now for the third time, the Giants will face Jeff Garcia in a wild card game against a team which Garcia has led to a division title. New York comes into this game with a 10-6 record, the same mark they owned when they squared off against Garcia and the 49ers in 2002, the only other wild card game in which Garcia came in having started every game for his team. But Garcia may not have as much momentum as he did when he faced the Giants as the Eagles quarterback last year. At 9-7 his Bucs have the worst record of any division champion in the conference and they are coming into the playoffs on a two game skid.

Momentum is something the Giants have in abundance however. Even though they lost their season finale 38-35 to the undefeated Patriots they showed the league and themselves that they have a lot of guts and determination. New England had to claw their way back from the greatest deficit they had faced at any time during the entire season, and but for a few mistakes the Giants know they could have knocked Goliath out; that will give them a huge dose of confidence going into the playoffs. If New York’s defense can play with the same intensity as they showed against New England and if Giants running back Brandon Jacobs can take time off the clock by pounding out some good yardage on the ground then the Giants ought to able to make the third time the charm and break the Garcia spell finally.

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