|National Football League|
By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- The New York Giants think they need to run the table in their final four regular-season games to win the NFC East.
The New Orleans Saints feel the same way about reaching the playoffs, and are drawing inspiration from the reigning Super Bowl champions.
The Giants could find their division lead completely gone with a loss Sunday at MetLife Stadium, while another defeat for the Saints will essentially end their fading postseason hopes.
New York (7-5) has dropped three of four, and has seen its 2 1/2 game lead in the East reduced to one ahead of Washington and Dallas.
Following Monday's 17-16 loss to the Redskins, another defeat would further complicate the race for the Giants, and their upcoming schedule isn't very friendly. After hosting the Saints (5-7), they visit Atlanta and Baltimore before welcoming Philadelphia in Week 17.
"I am looking at it one game at a time, knowing full well it's a four-game season and we have to win really every one of our games," coach Tom Coughlin said. "That's how I look at it. It's going to be win the games that are presented, the one that is right in front of you."
New York proved it could do that last year, winning three of its final four contests to finish 9-7, squeezing into the playoffs and going on to lift a fourth Lombardi Trophy.
That's not lost on the Saints, who likely need to sweep their final four games against New York, Tampa Bay, Dallas and Carolina to have a chance at a team-record fourth straight playoff berth.
"We saw what they did last year," cornerback Jabari Greer said. "We know that it's possible."
Not with the way New Orleans is playing lately.
The Saints followed a 31-21 loss to San Francisco on Nov. 25 with a 23-13 defeat at Atlanta four days later, and Drew Brees was the primary culprit in each defeat.
Brees had two interceptions returned for touchdowns against the 49ers, then set a career high with five picks against the Falcons while also mismanaging the clock at the end of the first half to cost New Orleans at least three points.
He had thrown 24 touchdowns with five interceptions over his eight games prior to the San Francisco loss.
"I understand the importance of taking care of the football," Brees said. "Certainly the last two weeks there have been an inordinate amount of turnovers. That's something that can't happen and something I have to fix.
"We're playing the defending world champs in their house, and the last three don't mean anything unless we win this one. The Giants have played in these types of games - playoff games before the playoffs. That's kind of the situation we're in."
Brees has been superb against the Giants, completing 64.8 percent of his passes for 1,055 yards with 11 touchdowns and no picks while being sacked once in four games - all wins. He tossed four scoring passes and racked up 363 yards while connecting on 24 of 38 passes in a 49-24 victory Nov. 28, 2011.
The Giants have failed to record a sack in two of their last three games, allowing opposing QBs to post a 106.4 rating with six touchdowns and one interception.
New York has also struggled to get off the field lately, allowing its past four opponents to convert 45.7 percent of their third downs after limiting their first eight opponents to 36.2 percent.
"They are a group that you absolutely want to be able to control the tempo of a game against and try to stay in the most favorable positions as possible as an offense," Brees said. "You get into a bunch of pass-only downs, third-and-long situations, that plays right into their hands and strengths."
New Orleans has rectified a running game that was averaging a league-worst 72.6 yards through October by picking up 119.8 yards per game on the ground over the past five contests. That success may continue since New York is surrendering 139.3 in its last four games - including 207 to Robert Griffin III and the Redskins on Monday.
"I don't think we have played dominant on a consistent basis," safety Antrel Rolle said. "I think we can definitely go out there and have a little more dog in our system. Attack a lot more, be more physical at the point of attack and make plays when the opportunity presents itself.
"We just need to go out there and have that same confidence in ourselves when we take the field, which we do. But we need to go out there and prove it. Talk is cheap."
Eli Manning is seeking consistency as three of his six touchdown passes over the past seven games came in a 38-10 home win over Green Bay in Week 12. He followed that up with a 4-yard TD toss to Martellus Bennett against the Redskins.
Manning put up 406 yards with two TDs and one INT while completing 33 of 47 passes in last year's meeting with the Saints.
Updated December 6, 2012