The New York Giants have been down this road before. In fact, they've been in this position the past two seasons, and there's only one thing that will allow the fan base to take it's collective heavy hand off that gigantic panic button: a run to the Super Bowl.
The Big Apple's NFC representative has become a big tease, starting 6-2 for three straight years only to record a loss in their ninth contest each time. After stumbling into the playoffs and getting blown out in 2005 and '06, New York's six-game winning streak was met with much skepticism heading into Sunday's showdown against the Dallas Cowboys. The cynicism only got worse after Dallas' 31-20 victory gave the Cowboys (8-1) a season sweep of Big Blue and essentially put the Giants three games back in the NFC East.
Forget the euphoria during a slate of late September and October games that resulted in five Giants blowouts. The questions heading into the season remain: Can the defense stop a legitimate offense? Can the running game survive the loss of Tiki Barber? Is Eli Manning going to emerge as one of the league's elite quarterbacks?
In the rematch against Dallas, the answers all seemed to be some variation of "no."
However, the Giants have seven more games to get their act together and prove the six-game winning streak wasn't a mirage. That said, even a postseason berth won't be enough to keep supporters from panicking.
Here are some more winners, losers and other observations from Week 10:
• The St. Louis Rams put an end to the 0-16 talk (at least outside of Miami) by scoring touchdowns (four) away from home for the first time this season. Here's a recap of some forgettable moments since the Rams' previous offensive touchdowns (in the 2006 season finale against the Minnesota Vikings) before Sunday: Six-year, $30-million contract to wide receiver Drew Bennett (18-194, 2 TDs in '07); season-ending injury to Orlando Pace; Gus Frerotte as the replacement starting quarterback; and Randy McMichael making guarantees. After those lowlights, the Rams deserve a bright spot.
• Selvin Young told CBS announcers in a meeting Friday that he believed Adrian Peterson was the only running back better than him in April's NFL draft. Young (20-109, 1 TD on Sunday), a non-drafted free agent by the Denver Broncos, helped fuel a surprising road blowout of the Kansas City Chiefs while Peterson (11-45) was kept in check before getting hurt during the Vikings' loss to the Green Bay Packers. However, Young didn't quite emerge Sunday's numero uno of the '07 tailback class. He was eclipsed by another non-drafted rookie – Green Bay's Ryan Grant (25-119, 1 TD).
• After the Pittsburgh Steelers' wild come-from-behind victory over the Cleveland Browns, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was asked about his team being under the radar. Are you serious? They're the Pittsburgh Steelers. They're 7-2, have one of the league's best quarterbacks and most renowned defenses, and won the Super Bowl two seasons ago. They're not garnering the attention of the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots, but the Steelers stopped being "under the radar" when they embarrassed the Seattle Seahawks in Week 5.
• Obviously there's much football to be played, but just imagine Brett Favre vs. Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. Dallas likely is the favorite in the NFC, but with a strong defense and emerging running attack to complement Favre and his incredibly deep receiving corps, Packers fans can realistically start dreaming about a Super Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.
• It was a good day for lowly drafted or non-drafted quarterbacks against high draft picks: the Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo over Manning; the Jacksonville Jaguars' Quinn Gray over Vince Young of the Tennessee Titans; and the Rams' Marc Bulger over the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees.
• Not even a minute into the second quarter, San Diego Chargers rookie cornerback Antonio Cromartie had already intercepted Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning three times. Quentin Jammer might not have a starting job waiting for him when he recovers from his hamstring injury.
• Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kris Jenkins charged "we have no heart … no drive" after a Week 4 home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Those sentiments could have been directed solely at the defense following the Atlanta Falcons' opening drive Sunday. Warrick Dunn took a handoff and went right up the gut past the first two layers. Safety Chris Harris, the first defender to make any contact, was brushed off with a straight arm as Dunn easily scored on a 30-yard run. Pretty bad considering the number of first-rounders and prized free agent acquisitions in the front 7.
• Apparently, the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens' offenses were allergic to red-zone touchdowns. The victorious Bengals penetrated the Ravens 20-yard line on eight occasions, including getting down to the 1 and 5, but had to settle for seven Shayne Graham field goals. The Ravens only reached the 20 twice, with the first such possession resulting in a Steve McNair interception in the end zone with 12 seconds left in the first half. Baltimore's second red-zone possession was converted into a garbage-time touchdown by Willis McGahee.
• Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell finally connected for a scoring pass with a wide receiver. In fact, he connected with James Thrash (twice) and Keenan McCardell for a total of three scores to WRs. However, that was about the only good news for the Redskins as Thrash left the loss with a left ankle injury and was on crutches in the locker room.
Jumping for joy: So have the leaping chest and body bumps replaced celebratory handshakes and high-fives? This is not a criticism, but you have to wonder how long it takes before someone awkwardly comes down on an ankle and actually has to miss a play or a game.
Winning cures all: This is no judgment on whether Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid should have taken a leave of absence to spend time with his "family in crisis." However, how much criticism would Reid have gotten for continuing to coach if the Eagles were winning more consistently? Granted, the court hearing and sentencing of his eldest two sons happened more than a week ago, but we'll see how much of a "distraction" Reid's personal life will be this week following the Eagles' victory over the Washington Redskins.
Heart-to-heart conversation: The Steelers' Mike Tomlin, 35, looks like the coolest cat in the history of NFL coaches. However, for the second straight week, he's likely had a bone to pick with Hines Ward. One week after Ward motioned for the Ravens' sideline to provide medical assistance – while the play was still live – for safety Ed Reed after Ward leveled him, the wide receiver strolled to the goal line with a Browns defender just a step or two away from making the tackle. If Ward's showboating costs the Steelers' some prime real estate or a score down the stretch, someone might be calling for the medical staff on his behalf.
Second look: To reiterate a point from last week: What's up with the replays … or lack thereof? On the Cowboys' opening score, Romo was very close to crossing the line of scrimmage. Actually, it looked like he did cross the yard marker before throwing a pass to Tony Curtis that resulted in a 15-yard touchdown. However, it's pretty hard to judge whether he did since FOX failed to show multiple replays, even after announcer Joe Buck raised the issue. There's was one quick replay, from a non-conclusive angle, showed in between the … drum roll … celebration shots, PAT and commercial.
Worth his weight: Former run-stuffer Tony Siragusa was more irritating than informative early in his career as a sideline reporter. More and more now, he's providing insight and entertainment, including pointing out how seemingly everyone on the Eagles sideline did the "bobble" motion in sync as a Redskins receiver failed to catch the ball in bounds during a key second-half sequence.
• Are the Ravens cursed to have a quarterback in the running for league's worst starter as long as offensive genius Brian Billick is their head coach?
• Was that Roethlisberger or John Elway taking off for a 30-yard scoring run in Pittsburgh?
• How will the Vikings move the ball if rookie sensation Adrian Peterson gets bad news following the MRI on his knee Monday?