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First-place Giants plot path to the postseason

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - Like recent years, the defending Super Bowl-champion Giants have had their share of ups and downs this season.

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Unlike recent years, and despite the rollercoaster ride, New York controls its own destiny.

With three games left, the Giants (8-5) have a one-game lead in the NFC East on Washington (7-6) and Dallas (7-6). They win their final three games, they'll win the division title for a second straight year.

That hasn't been the situation often here at the Meadowlands - a smooth ride ahead, a cut-and-dried path the postseason. This time around, there is no help needed. Just win out and get ready for the playoffs.

``It's a much better feeling this way,'' defensive tackle Chris Canty said Monday, a day after the Giants defeated New Orleans, 52-27. ``We don't have to look over our shoulders and worry about anyone else. We have a three-game season left and if we win those three games, then we can control things.

``We'll take it one game at a time, but I like being in this position much better.''

Not that it will be easy, of course. New York closes with Atlanta (11-2), Baltimore (9-4), and Philadelphia (4-9). Two of those clubs are headed to the postseason.

At one point Sunday, it appeared as if the Giants were going to get some help in their quest for the division title, as both Washington and Dallas trailed late to Baltimore and Cincinnati, respectively. But the Redskins and Cowboys rallied, forcing the Giants to be emphatic vs. the Saints if they were to maintain the edge.

Consider the message sent. Eli Manning threw for four scores and five Giants had at least two catches in the win.

``We have to take care of our own business,'' Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. ``We've determined our own future and we do know what's at stake. After yesterday, nothing has changed in terms of the divisional standings. We understand everything. We have to keep concentrating at a higher level and hopefully we can build from the win yesterday. The facts are the facts.''

The quest continues Sunday in Atlanta, against a team that has already clinched the NFL South and is undefeated at home (6-0).

``We're prepping to play a very good Atlanta team that has only lost two times,'' Coughlin said.

That said, Atlanta lost to Carolina, 30-20, on Sunday, and may well ease off the pedal now that the Falcons have a division crown. The Giants defeated Atlanta, 24-2, in the playoffs last season, New York's first of four postseason victories en route to the title.

``We have to see how we match up, and realize where our strengths and weaknesses are,'' Coughlin said. ``Knowing the obvious, what we have to do over the next three weeks, is plain and obvious. It has to be part of our approach.''

Another standout performance from David Wilson would help. He became the first player in NFL history to rush for more than 100 yards and have more than 200 yards in return yards in a single game. Wilson's 327 all-purpose yards set a new team record.

``David has given us an added playmaker,'' Coughlin said. ``The timing is great for David to come to the front. He's gained experience all year, but he gained valuable experience last night as well. People now have to worry about defending him.''

Canty was asked if his team played better when they felt pressure.

``I don't necessarily agree that we're not going to play well unless our backs are to the wall,'' Canty said. ``We don't need our backs to the wall to give our best effort. We haven't had our best effort yet, but we need it to be sooner than later. We expect everything from Atlanta.''

The Giants have lost their last two road games.

``We have a tremendous opportunity to go there and take on that talented team,'' Canty said. ``We're a good football team on the road, so this is going to be a test for us. But we're where we want to be.''

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NOTES: Coughlin will not address the injuries to RB Ahmad Bradshaw (knee), WR Hakeem Nicks (hand) and WR Victor Cruz (hamstring) until they are further examined by team physicians. ... The Giants have topped 40 points three times this season, and have surpassed 35 points five times. ... New York is 3-0 vs. the NFC South already with only the Falcons remaining on the slate.

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