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By The Sports Xchange November 21, 2012 9:30 PM
Stop us if you've heard this story before. The New York Giants begin their season strong, hit a mid-year bump, and then find themselves in a situation where they no longer have any margin for error and must win their remaining battles against a tough slate of opponents. That's precisely the situation the Giants find themselves in this week as they return from their bye week with a 6-4 record and a one-game lead in the NFC East. That advantage could be trimmed in half by the time they take the field Sunday if Dallas wins its game on Thanksgiving against the Redskins. Adding to the challenge for the Giants as they begin what they've dubbed a "six-game season" is that they'll be facing a red hot Green Bay Packers team that has won its last five in a row, turning a 2-3 record into a 7-3 mark. That's been good enough to put the Packers in first place in the NFC North division. But when it comes to challenges, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said his team couldn't ask for a better one than what's coming up Sunday night, noting the motivation for the Giants to defeat the Packers is staring them right in the face. "The fact that we are coming off of a bye clinging to a very small lead in our division and have to win football games, and the fact that it is a six-game schedule for us now," he said of how the Giants will focus. "(It's) one game at a time for six weeks -- everything we've got, full speed ahead (to) prove the quality of our football team." Perhaps just as important for the Giants is the opportunity to silence the critics who have already begun speculating whether New York is headed for yet another second-half swoon under Coughlin, whose teams are 27-30 in the final eight games of the season. For his part, Coughlin is tired of talking about the reasons behind his team's recent struggles, in which the Giants have lost their last two games and have not played their best in their last four. "I'm really tired about answering all the questions about what's wrong," he said. "I'd rather we play a game and play it well and answer the questions that way." His players are just as confident that they'll be able to answer the questions that their play of late has created. "On the inside, we know what's real and we know what's going on," said tight end Martellus Bennett. "When there's a storm, the people that usually panic first aren't the guys that built the house. It's usually the people living in it because they don't know all the work the guys that built the house put (in) to build the place. We're the people building this house, so we know what we put in it." That's why the challenge posed by the Packers should provide the Giants with a good test as to just how strong their foundation is. "There's no question about that; this is a huge game," Coughlin said. "I'm not going to stand here and talk to you about motivation, but I can give you a half an hour of it. Why wouldn't we be excited about playing? Look at the time of the year. After Thanksgiving, you better be playing your best football or on your way towards playing your best football if you're going to be representative." That's why Coughlin is also hoping that his team's history of being able rise to the occasion in big games continues. "In the past we've done that," he said about his team's resiliency and ability to rise after being counted out. "We certainly have intrigued people along the way, though, and some opportunities we could've taken advantage of that we didn't. So hopefully we'll continue to play well and every game is a big game to me."