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Tom Coughlin says No. 2-ranked New York Giants have plenty to gain Sunday

Even though the Giants already earned the top seed in the NFC playoffs, they will play to win against Minnesota.

“The week off comes after the last game,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.

The Giants learned the value of playing to win in the regular-season finale last season. Even though they had clinched a wild-card berth, the Giants went all out against the Patriots. That game, though it was a 38-35 loss to New England, is credited with being the Giants’ springboard on their way to the Super Bowl title.

Thus, even though their next meaningful game isn’t for two weeks, the Giants plan on winning Sunday. Only their injured — Aaron Ross (concussion) and perhaps Brandon Jacobs (knee), Justin Tuck (foot), Domenik Hixon (ankle) and Fred Robbins (shoulder) — will rest come Sunday.

“I disagree with the idea that there is nothing to be gained,” Coughlin said. “There’s a lot to be gained. If you believe, as we do, you have to be playing your best football at this time of year, you certainly do have some things to build on, particularly when you’re not going to play for a couple of weeks.”

The rankings

1. Tennessee, 13-2 — The Titans are first in scoring defense. They have never led the NFL in that category.

2. NY Giants, 12-3 — The Giants, who won three consecutive road games to get to the Super Bowl last season, have home-field advantage.

3. Pittsburgh, 11-4 — The Steelers have beaten the Browns 10 consecutive times and lead the series 58-55, including two playoff victories.

4. Indianapolis, 11-4 — The Colts have won eight in a row.

5. Carolina, 11-4 — The Panthers are 3-4 on the road.

6. Baltimore, 10-5 — The Ravens have won five consecutive home games against the Jags.

7. Atlanta, 10-5 — Michael Turner has 1,491 rushing yards and trails Jamal Anderson (1,846 yards, 1998), Gerald Riggs (1,719, 1985) and William Andrews (1,567, 1983) in team history.

8. Miami, 10-5 — Chad Pennington has the second-best passer rating in the NFL at 96.4 and has passed for a career-high 3,453 yards, the highest total for a Dolphins quarterback since Dan Marino threw 3,497 in 1998.

9. New England, 10-5 — The Patriots have been penalized 55 times this season. The record for fewest accepted penalties in a 16-game season is 59, set by the 2007 Seahawks.

10. Dallas, 9-6 — Tony Romo is 5-9 in the months of December and January, including two playoff losses. He has completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 3,202 yards, 16 touchdowns and 19 interceptions while losing three fumbles in those 14 games.

11. Minnesota, 9-6 — The Vikings have never won an NFC North title. Their last division title was in the old NFC Central in 2000. Their last playoff appearance was in 2004.

12. Philadelphia, 8-6-1 — If the Eagles miss the playoffs, it will mark the third time in the past four years they have been left out.

13. Tampa Bay, 9-6 — In his past three games, Antonio Bryant has 23 catches for 435 yards and four touchdowns.

14. Chicago, 9-6 — Matt Forte leads NFL rookies with 1,640 yards from scrimmage.

15. NY Jets, 9-6 — The Jets have beaten the Dolphins five times in a row.

16. San Diego, 7-8 — The Chargers have 28 sacks, which is one sack every 20.9 pass plays. Without a sack against the Broncos, they will finish with their lowest sack total since having 27 in 1997.

17. New Orleans, 8-7 — The Saints are 6-1 at home.

18. Washington, 8-7 — If the Redskins beat the 49ers, Jim Zorn will be Washington's winningest first-year coach since Dudley DeGroot in 1944. Not even Hall of Famer Gibbs had a winning season in his debut.

19. Arizona, 8-7 — The Cardinals have lost four of their past five.

20. Denver, 8-7 — Jay Cutler (24) needs three touchdown passes to tie Jake Plummer (27 in 2004) and John Elway (27 in 1997) for most in team history.

21. Houston, 7-8 — Since Gary Kubiak became their coach in 2006, the Texans are 9-5 in December, including 7-1 at home.

22. Buffalo, 7-8 — The Bills have lost 10 in a row to the Patriots and 15 of the past 16. They have been outscored 308-96 in the 10-game losing streak, an average margin of defeat of 31-10.

23. San Francisco, 6-9 — Shaun Hill is 6-3 as a starter.

24. Jacksonville, 5-10 — Maurice Jones-Drew leads Jacksonville with 746 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns while ranking second with a career-high 61 receptions for 555 yards.

25. Green Bay, 5-10 — The Packers have beaten the Lions 17 consecutive times at home.

26. Seattle, 4-11 — Seneca Wallace has a 108.5 passer rating in his past three starts, completed 67.9 percent of his passes for 613 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

27. Oakland, 4-11 — The Raiders are 23-72 since their Super Bowl appearance in the 2002 season.

28. Cincinnati, 3-11-1 — The Bengals have won two in a row.

29. Kansas City, 2-13 — The Chiefs have lost eight games this season by seven points or less and blew double-digit leads in home games against Tampa Bay and San Diego.

30. Cleveland, 4-11 — The Browns have lost five in a row, and they have not scored an offensive touchdown in those five games.

31. St. Louis, 2-13 — The Rams’ nine-game losing streak is the longest since the franchise moved to St. Louis in 1995.

32. Detroit, 0-15 — The Lions are the first team in NFL history to start a season 0-15.

Cowboys’ pick

Dallas (+1 1/2) at PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles will know by kickoff whether they have a chance for the postseason. They won’t. Though misery loves company, I’m betting the Cowboys, with the postseason to play for, will make a play at the end to win.

Cowboys 23, EAGLES 21

Charean’s season record: 12-3

Upset special

Miami (+3) over NY JETS — The Dolphins have won eight of their past nine, and they have four consecutive road wins. Chad Pennington has been the better quarterback and would like nothing better than to end his first season in Miami with a victory over his former team.

Dolphins 17, JETS 13

Charean’s season record: 6-11 Best bet

PITTSBURGH (-101/2) over Cleveland — Reason 1. The Steelers have won 10 in a row over the Browns. Reason 2: The Browns have gone five full games without an offensive touchdown. Reason 3: Bruce Gradkowski will become the fourth starting quarterback for the Browns.

STEELERS 21, Browns 0

Charean’s season record straight up: 13-4

Charean’s season record against spread: 8-7-2

— Home team in caps.

Fantasy Tips

1. In the past eight games against the Patriots, Bills receiver Lee Evans has only 16 catches with no touchdowns and only one catch of more than 20 yards.

2. Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall had 18 receptions against the Chargers in Week 2, the second-most by any receiver in a single NFL game. San Diego still ranks as the lowest-rated pass defense in the conference and second-worst in the NFL.

3. The Vikings handed the Giants their most embarrassing loss of last season. In a game at Giants Stadium, the Vikings intercepted Eli Manning four times, returning three of them for touchdowns.

4. In two starts against Oakland, Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia has completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 618 yards with six touchdowns, no interceptions and a 118.9 passer rating.

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