EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey The New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens, both coming off one-sided losses, are looking forward to Sunday's playoff-caliber showdown with a sense of urgency running through both teams.
The Super Bowl champion Giants need to win their last two games, including a regular season finale against Philadelphia, to ensure a place in the playoffs, while the Ravens, on a three-game losing skid, can win the AFC North title with a victory.
"We have the two-game schedule and we have to win both games to get in the playoffs and everybody's aware of that," New York coach Tom Coughlin told reporters before Wednesday's practice.
The Giants (8-6) are tied for the NFC East lead with the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, but would come up on the losing end of tiebreakers with both teams.
Since Washington and Dallas meet in their final game, two wins would guarantee the Giants a wildcard berth.
The Ravens (9-5) were beaten 34-17 at home last week by Denver, but clinched a playoff berth nonetheless for a fifth successive season. Coach John Harbaugh said it is essential the team got get on track.
"We understand what's at stake," Harbaugh told reporters in a conference call to the Giants' practice facility. "The guys are excited to play. We have plenty to play for. We‘re trying to play for a division championship.
"You do want to build momentum and you want to be your best at the end of the year. You want to build toward that and peak at the right time, and that's what we're really hoping to do."
Coughlin said his team had been plagued by inconsistency and that quarterback Eli Manning was the man to lead them out of the trend after the team was shut out 34-0 last week by Atlanta.
"It's our whole football team," Coughlin said, not laying the blame on any particular phase of the game.
"Hopefully, because of the position that Eli is in, he's going to lead us out of the inconsistencies," Coughlin said about a team that scored 50 points in beating New Orleans two weeks ago before being blanked by the Falcons.
The Giants hope history can repeat itself.
Last season, the up-and-down New Yorkers put it all together at the end of the season, winning their last two games to reach the postseason and sweeping four playoff games culminating in a Super Bowl triumph over the New England Patriots.
"The reality of it is we haven't been able to play to substantiate what I would say is the personality of this team," Coughlin said about the 2012 edition of the club.
"So I'm definitely counting on the veterans to go ahead and prove this and do it with consistency. Last year we did it over a six-game run, and we're in that situation again."
Ravens running back Ray Rice said he expected a high intensity showdown game against the Giants.
"They have a lot at stake and we got a lot at stake," said Rice. "We're trying to clinch the AFC North and I think they are in a three-way tie. There's going to be a playoff atmosphere on Sunday."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)