A team squeezes into the playoffs on the last day of the season and rides that wave into the NFC Championship Game. If the New York Giants' narrative this year sounds familiar, you may be thinking of the 2010 Green Bay Packers.
The popular comparison is that the Giants, like last year's Packers, developed a certain edge from having to fight their way into the playoffs over the final weeks of the regular season that has benefited them in the postseason.
The 2010 Packers won their final two regular-season games, defeating the Chicago Bears in Week 17 to make the playoffs as a 10-6 wild card. They, of course, went on to run the table in the postseason and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl.
The 2011 Giants, who were 7-7 on Dec. 19, also won their final two games of the season, defeating the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17 to clinch a playoff berth as the NFC East champion.
Unlike the Packers, the Giants hosted their first-round game -- beating the Atlanta Falcons, 24-2 -- and then went on the road to defeat Green Bay at Lambeau Field and advance to Sunday's conference title game against the 49ers at Candlestick Park.
Cornerback Antrel Rolle, who represented the Giants on a national conference call this week, said he sees "a lot of similarities" with the Packers' run last season.
"It kind of happened pretty much very parallel," Rolle said. "But, you know, we don't compare ourselves to Green Bay and neither do we relate to them. We've been doing this on our own, for ourselves, and that's the only thing that matters at this point."
Another player who sees parallels: 49ers receiver Brett Swain. A member of that 2010 Packers squad, Swain said there's something to be said for a team experiencing must-win games before getting into the postseason.
"You get to the end of the season and pretty much your playoffs start in week 14, 15 and 16," Swain said. "So (the Giants have) played in a bunch of games where they've had to win. And I think that helps going into the playoffs."
"It's like putting a dog in a corner almost. The only way out is for a dog to fight its way out. That's kind of what that team is right now, and you've definitely got to be careful."
Since their 23-10 loss to the Redskins on Dec. 18 dropped them to 7-7, the Giants have won four games by an average margin of nearly 18 points. Giants quarterback Eli Manning has a quarterback rating of 121.8 in two playoff games, and the Giants have converted 16 of 31 third-down attempts (52 percent) in those games.
"You know they're the hot team right now, they're coming in with that mentality, so we're just preparing ourselves for a physical game," Swain said this week. "We know we need to do all the little things right and detail our workouts, 'cause we can't go out there and shoot ourselves in the foot."
-- Matt Kawahara