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NFL's Final Four -- From the Redskins' Lens

When the New York Giants look back at the 2007 season, they should point to two games that proved to be turning points.


In Week 3, at Washington, the Giants were 0-2 and trailing the Redskins 17-3 at halftime.

They rallied in the second half, scoring three touchdowns--two on short runs by Reuben Droughns, and another on a Plaxico Burress catch-and-run.

Then in the final seconds, Ladell Betts was tripped up on a 4th-and-goal carry at the 1-yard line, securing New York's win.

The sleeping Giants were wide awake now. The victory was the first of a seven-game winning streak.

Flash forward to Week 15. The Redskins go to New York and stun the 9-4 Giants with a convincing 22-10 win at the Meadowlands. Suddenly, there was worry that the Giants were on the verge of another late-season collapse.

Turned out that game served as a wake-up call for the Giants, who clinched a Wild Card playoff berth the following week with a 38-21 win over the Buffalo Bills.

After nearly pulling off an upset of the unbeaten New England Patriots in Week 17, the Giants defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys to get to Sunday's NFC Championship game.

They match up against the Green Bay Packers at historic Lambeau Field.

The Redskins still look back at their Week 6 game against the Packers as a game they gave away. They had opened up a 14-7 halftime lead at Lambeau.

Then, in the third quarter, Santana Moss fumbled on a wide receiver reverse. The ball was scooped up by cornerback Charles Woodson, who raced 57 yards for what proved to be the game-winning score.

The Redskins' offense had five fourth-quarter opportunities to move into scoring range, but each time they came away with no points in a 17-14 defeat.

From the sidelines, it was noted that game was played with the physical intensity of a playoff game. It was even predicted that there could be a Redskins-Packers rematch in mid-January.

Turned out that was close to becoming a reality.

On Sunday, it's expected that Green Bay will have an enormous home field advantage, one that should carry the Packers to Super Bowl XLI.

Weather reports suggest temperatures will be about 2 degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind chill of 15 degrees below.

The conditions should force both the Packers and Giants to rely more on the ground game. And that should benefit the Giants, who have a banged-up secondary.

The Giants have the NFL's fourth-ranked rushing offense, led by Brandon Jacobs and the emerging Ahmad Bradshaw.

The Packers struggled in the ground game until late in the season, when Ryan Grant--a former Giant--stepped up. He rushed for 201 yards against the Seahawks last week.

If Brett Favre and the Packers are able to pass the ball amid the frigid weather, they'll win. But the Giants have an offense better suited to the conditions, and should pull off another road upset by a 16-13 count.

In the AFC, the undefeated New England Patriots look to go to 18-0 as they host the San Diego Chargers at Gillette Stadium.

The Redskins, of course, were one of the Patriots' victims last season. On Oct. 28, Washington lost to the New England 52-7 at Gillette Stadium.

At the time, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was accused of running up the score on Joe Gibbs and the Redskins.

From the Redskins' perspective, reactions were mixed to the Patriots' tactics.

Gibbs chose to downplay it.

"I always look at it as, you cannot let yourself be in a situation where somebody else has an opportunity to do that," he said on Oct. 29. "My approach has always been if it happens and we put ourselves in a situation like that, I am certainly not going to be somebody that complains about that."

The Redskins moved on, and toward the end of the regular season, players grew to admire what the Patriots had accomplished.

"I think it would be exciting for them to go through a whole season, to focus all year long, against all odds, after so long," Clinton Portis said. "For those guys to be able to control that and continue their win streak, it is just impressive.

"I really think they are going to do it. I would love to see them do it."

The only Redskins connection to the Chargers is their head coach Norv Turner, who never achieved this type of success in seven seasons in Washington.

Now the head coach of his third NFL team, Turner appears to be more relaxed than he ever did when he was with the Redskins.

Of course, Turner inherited a club that was already one of the best in the league.

The Chargers developed into winners under Marty Schottenheimer--another former Redskins head coach--and now they hope Turner can finish the job and lead them to the Super Bowl.

San Diego lost to New England 24-21 last year in the AFC Divisional Playoffs--and irritated LaDainian Tomlinson in the process by mimicking Shawne Merriman's sack dance at midfield. So the Chargers hope for some payback on Sunday.

Cold weather could be a factor in this game, too. But Tom Brady is too unflappable and the Patriots should pull away in the fourth quarter, winning 31-17.

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