It’s that time when adversity sets in, hope disappears and some NFL teams get torn apart while facing the certainty of a losing year. But coach Tom Coughlin is not going to allow any of that nonsense to wreck the New York Giants, at least not yet.
Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning are saying all the right things, that a 4-7 team with five games remaining still has a shot — even a long one — at the playoffs. The Giants are accustomed to being belittled with their backs against the wall, and they usually overcome the odds.
The scenario in Washington is different. Mike Shanahan is coaching a 3-8 team that is hopeless and getting torn apart by adversity. Shanahan appears ready for retirement, and teammates are ripping quarterback Robert Griffin III, who in turn is criticizing the coaches.
The Redskins are turning into one of those VH1 reality shows in which 10 people live in the same hotel room or house for months and there’s constant backstabbing and catfighting.
The NFC East offers several good storylines and no great teams. It’s tough to flip the channel, and the Giants-Redskins squabble Sunday night on NBC should be worth watching and sets up as a decent wagering opportunity.
I’m going with the Giants as 1-point road favorites mostly because the Redskins show more signs of being a go-against side. In Washington’s loss to San Francisco on Monday, Griffin passed for just 118 yards and was sacked six times. He was beat up and nearly decapitated by the 49ers’ defense, and it was surprising he was able to walk off the field at the end of the night.
Griffin is best when running a read-option offense and making plays out of the pocket. He’s not the most accurate passer. Shanahan wants him to be a dropback passer. It’s not working.
The Washington defense is broken, too, ranking 27th against the pass. Manning is capable of getting back on track at any time, especially if he rediscovers wide receiver Victor Cruz, but banking on Manning to win a bet is bad for the bottom line.
The Giants have a better shot to control the game with running back Andre Brown, who suffered a fractured left leg in the preseason and missed the first nine weeks. Brown rushed for 127 yards against Dallas last Sunday and has totaled 308 yards in the past three games.
“We know we have to win these next five games to give ourselves a shot,” Manning said this week. “Nothing is guaranteed. But there’s still hope.”
That’s more than the Redskins have. Coughlin’s teams don’t quit. The Giants rebounded from 0-6 to win four straight, so getting a win in Washington is not too much to ask.
Four more plays for Week 13 (home team in CAPS):
■ EAGLES (-3) over Cardinals: Before the bye, Philadelphia made an important breakthrough by stopping its 10-game home losing skid. Nick Foles has 16 touchdown passes and no interceptions, and if he continues to eliminate turnovers, the Eagles should continue to win. Arizona is hot, too, winning its fourth straight in a 40-11 blowout of Indianapolis last week. But the Cardinals rarely beat quality opponents on the road.
■ BILLS (-3) over Falcons: Atlanta appears to have quit on coach Mike Smith. The Falcons are especially bad on the road, 0-5 straight up and against the spread. Buffalo is 5-1 ATS at home this season. However, this game is in Toronto, where the Bills are 1-3-1 ATS the past five years, so playing in Canada decreases the home-field advantage. There are so many negatives with the Falcons, it’s bet against them or pass at this point.
■ CHARGERS (-1) over Bengals: San Diego (5-6) plays four of its final five games at home, so Philip Rivers has a chance to make a run. He resurrected the Chargers’ hopes by striking for a last-minute touchdown in a 41-38 victory Sunday at Kansas City. Rivers is erratic, but so is the opposing quarterback. Andy Dalton and the Bengals are 2-4 on the road, and they were fortunate to get both wins.
■ Saints (+4½) over SEAHAWKS: A vastly improved defense gives New Orleans a better shot to win on the road. It also helps the Saints’ cause that Drew Brees will be taking aim at a Seattle defense missing cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond.
Last week: 5-0 against the spread
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.