By Steve Silverman
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The Giants are ready to start their playoff run.
Whether they realize it or not, the Giants are about ready to run the gauntlet.
They shook off a bit of sleep dust before overwhelming the Cleveland Browns 41-27 yesterday and now the real test begins.
It's not just the headline matchup with the revenge-seeking 49ers Sunday. The Giants don't have an easy game remaining the rest of the way.
The closest thing they have to a soft game in the final 11 games is a road game at Cincinnati Nov. 11. The Dolphins beat the Bengals in Cincinnati yesterday and Miami is one of the least talented teams in the league. A loss like that could send the Bengals into a tailspin.
They were a playoff team a year ago and Marvin Lewis is going to have to find a way to make them forget that loss, but if he can't that would be an easy game for the Giants.
This is no surprise as the NFL does its teams the favor of handing out the schedule in April. It looked hard then, but now that Tom Coughlin's team is just about to begin this rough ride, it is going to be awful.
The Giants are going to be a handful for San Francisco, Washington, Dallas and Pittsburgh to handle over the next four weeks.
The running game that deserted them in the 2011 regular season is back in full force. Ahmad Bradshaw ran over the Browns with 200 yards on the ground and explosive David Wilson had a 40-yard touchdown run of his own.
This means that the 49ers are not just looking at how to stop Eli Manning and Victor Cruz. The Giants may not choose to engage the 49er defense in a ground war, but the Niners are going to have to prepare for it.
The Giants have shown that they can run the ball and the only team that San Francisco has played with a solid running game has been the Vikings with Adrian Peterson. They lost that game.
The Niners were disinterested that time around. Going to the Metrodome will do that to you.
That game may have energized the Vikings. They are tied for first in the NFC North with the Chicago Bears in a season in which they were supposed to be a last-place team.
The Niners will not be disinterested at home against the Giants. Not after losing the NFC championship game 20-17 in overtime to them.
Not after watching the Giants win the Super Bowl two weeks later.
This game has a lot more subtext to the 49ers than it does the Giants. It's an important game in the standings to both teams, but Jim Harbaugh is going to push them hard this week so they can get their payback.
If they get the chance and can build a lead on the Giants, there will be no pulling back. They will score as many points as possible. That's the kind of guy Harbaugh is. He serves up embarrassment and humiliation whenever he can.
The Redskins beat the Giants twice last year and they follow the Niners. As long as RGIII (slight concussion suffered vs. Falcons) is in the lineup, the Skins are a threat to register the upset.
The Cowboys have already shown they can beat the Giants once and Pittsburgh is just starting to get healthy. If the Steelers defense is at its best and Rashard Mendenhall can steady the ground game as he did against the Eagles, Pittsburgh will be in top form in early November.
In the final weeks of the season, the Giants have non-division games against the Packers, Saints, Falcons and Ravens. While the Saints just got their first win yesterday, they have an explosive offense and Drew Brees may be the most dangerous spoiler at quarterback in NFL history.
The Giants have the talent on the roster to defend last year's Super Bowl title. However, this is as demanding a schedule as any defending champion has had in the last 10 years.
There is no sneaking up on anybody, either. Last year's team made sure of that.
Any honors that come this year will be well-earned.
Will it be a tough road ahead for the Giants? Sound off below...
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