Published December 20, 2012
BALTIMORE – The New York Giants have enough problems of their own to consider those of the Baltimore Ravens, who have lost three straight and are carrying an injured list that includes a half-dozen key players.
New York (8-6) has dropped four of six to fall into a three-way tie atop the NFC East. The skid includes a humbling 34-0 defeat in Atlanta last week.
So forgive the Giants for ignoring the plight of the Ravens, their opponent Sunday in a duel between two teams desperate for a victory.
"It's hard for me to say what situation that Baltimore is in," New York coach Tom Coughlin said. "I'm still stuck on our situation, and ours has been a year of inconsistency where we look as if we can play against anybody, and then we stub our toes.
"When we do that, we seem to — as in last weekend — embarrass ourselves. I really couldn't comment on Baltimore. I just know we're trying to achieve a high level of play at this time of the year, because it's so absolutely critical for us."
The Giants were 7-7 last season before winning their final two games and putting together a playoff push that ended with a Super Bowl win over New England. New York hopes to duplicate that formula this year, but there is no guarantee of an encore.
"Yeah, we've done it before, but this is a totally different year," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "We don't have the same guys on the team as last year. You don't know what the outcome will be. We have to go out this Sunday and play our hearts out and hopefully the next weekend, the game after that against the Eagles, and get in the playoffs. Each game right now is a must-win game for us. We put that on ourselves, and that's a consequence of it."
Instead of considering their accomplishment of last season, the Giants can draw strength from their lopsided victories this year over some very good teams — including San Francisco (26-3) and Green Bay (38-10).
"Our confidence will come from the players that we have in this locker room, our character, our preparation, our coaches giving us a great game plan and the fact that we know we can go out there and play at a high level," quarterback Eli Manning said.
Unlike the Giants, Baltimore (9-5) already is assured a place in the postseason, at this point as a wild-card entrant. The Ravens once appeared a shoo-in to win the AFC North, but their lead has dwindled to a single game over Cincinnati.
A pair of three-point losses to Pittsburgh and Washington was followed by a 34-17 blowout loss to Denver last week, leaving Baltimore in danger of losing four straight for the first time since 2007.
"We dug this hole we're in. We can't blame anybody but ourselves," safety Bernard Pollard said. "It's about time that we get this thing right, on both sides of the ball."
Pollard missed last week's game with a chest injury and is iffy for Sunday. Baltimore may also be without guard Marshal Yanda (ankle), wide receiver Torrey Smith (concussion), running back Bernard Pierce (concussion) and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (ankle). Linebacker Jameel McClain was declared out for the year Monday with a bruised spinal cord, and the Ravens are still waiting to see if linebacker Ray Lewis will return from a torn right triceps that has kept him sidelined since Oct. 14.
With all that going on, the Ravens haven't had time to break down what the Giants must do to reach the postseason.
"I really have not given their playoff situation one iota of thought," coach John Harbaugh said.
"They took a shellacking last week, we took a shellacking as well," Pollard said. "We can't worry about what happened with them. We can't worry about whether they're struggling or not because we have our own struggles. Everybody sees it. This is the National Football League. When they see you're not good at something, they're going to attack. And for us as a team, we're not good at a lot of things right now. We've been exposed. Now we've got to go back to work and figure out how to fix it. It's coming to the playoffs, so we've got to hit our stride."
A win over the defending NFL champions would be a huge step in the right direction. The Ravens have been trying for three weeks to wrap up the division title, and unlike last week — when they backed into the playoffs by virtue of Pittsburgh losing — they'd like to win the AFC North all on their own.
"That would be huge for us," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "We've been losing these past couple weeks but making the playoffs, it's kind of crazy. It would be a lot better if we could do it ourselves."
If that happens, then perhaps the Ravens can become this year's version of the 2011 Giants.
"No matter how you get in, it's always the team who gets hot right about now," running back Ray Rice said. "You look at the New York Giants — they got hot right about right now, and they went ahead and won the thing last year. No team has to be perfect right now, but if you go in there and start executing and you start playing that good football, you never know what can happen."
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL