But the Giants are indeed in gotta-have-a-win mode as they visit the Redskins tonight. The football Giants' 5-0 is a thing of the past, and now New York (7-6) needs a victory just to stay in a close third place behind Philadelphia and Dallas in the NFC East.
At least the Redskins can try to play spoiler -- like they almost did when they almost trapped New Orleans a couple weeks ago -- and beating the Giants is never meaningless to the Redskins.
"You have to win this game," Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes said. "I think there has been much said about 'we have to do this and do that.' We have to go do it and quit talking about it."
A loss would leave the Giants in need of lots of help and at the mercy of tiebreakers.
"We've put ourselves in a hole, now, and every game and every play is a must-win," rookie cornerback Bruce Johnson said. "I don't want to say we are panicking right now, but there is a sense of urgency to pick it up a little bit."
Those are the words of a kicker and a rookie, but the well-polished veterans know the deal as well -- they just express it in more measured tones.
Quarterback Eli Manning said simply "that is the mindset" when asked about the need to pull off three straight wins. Defensive end Justin Tuck said he thinks the Giants are in must-win territory, but he added it can create too much pressure to say something like that outright.
There's a similar dichotomy in the locker room of the Redskins (4-9). Bring up the role of spoiler, and the young guys embrace it, while the older players and the coach want no part of it.
Rookie linebacker Brian Orakpo: "I'd love to be the Grinch on their Christmas."
Second-year receiver Devin Thomas: "To spoil anybody's season would be a good feeling, especially because we can't make it to the postseason. We can put some dents in their records, and build our confidence rolling into next year."
Team captain and middle linebacker London Fletcher tried his best to dismiss such talk, saying the team should concentrate more on itself and less on the Giants. Coach Jim Zorn made it sound as if the word "spoiler" wasn't in his vocabulary.
"I'm not going to try to major on that thought with our football team, because then we're playing for somebody else," Zorn said. "In my mind, I want to play for us and what we can do. All those things will come out, but I certainly don't want our players playing that way. We're playing so somebody can go down or somebody else can win in the division? I don't want to do that. I want to win."
While the Giants likely need to go 3-0 to save their season, Zorn could use a 3-0 finish to have a shot at saving his job. He, like his players, is embarking on a three-week audition for newly hired general manager Bruce Allen, who may or may not already have plans in place to bring in Mike Shanahan or Jon Gruden for next season.
"I'm hoping he'll go back and review things. You've got to see the good, the bad and the ugly as well," Zorn said. "That will all be revealed. I will try not to whine or moan and groan about things that happened poorly around here. I will just continue to push forward, especially where we're at now, living in the present and learning from the past and pushing toward what's ahead."