Play to Win the Games

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This is the worst week of the NFL season. Most teams with Super Bowl aspirations have clinched playoff berths, so with a single game – of absolutely no import – left to play, their coaches most balance the need to stay sharp with the risk of injury. Play your horses are keep them in the barn?

Most often, I’d never criticize a coach for taking the safe tact. Rest ’em. Or play them for a quarter. Whatever. The wrath of losing an all-pro in the fourth quarter with noting at stake far outweighs those who say resting starters comprises “the integrity of the game.” Please. You don’t get a ring for winning in Week 16.

That said, I’m loving Tom Coughlin about now. Not for anything spectacular he’s done this season. The Giants are a methodically boring deal that has pretty much underperformed. But today he showed me something. The Giants have qualified for the playoffs. They even know who they’ll play in the opening round -m Tampa Bay. But still, he said today he’ll play to win against the undefeated, unblemished, untarnished New England Patriots on Saturday night. No rest. No safe tact.

That’s the right move. Anything less would indeed besmirch the integrity of the game. Anything less would be unfortunate.

Yes, a Giant might get hurt. Heck a Giant could be hurt in the first series, let alone the fourth quarter. But the Giants will not reach the Super Bowl. This is their Super Bowl. Beat the Patriots and a likely first-round lost to the Bucs will become a forgettable footnote for the history books. Beat the Bucs and this will be a ream worth remembering. Otherwise, it is little more than a bunch of guys in blue playing out the string.

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