Reggie Roberts: Walk me through why the Giants seem to struggle during portions of the regular season only to flip the switch and turn it on in the month of December under head coach Tom Coughlin.
Bob Glauber: For a team that has won two Super Bowls in the last five years, this is one of the most baffling trends for Coughlin's teams. He might be the best first-half-of-the-season coach in the NFL, but his teams have almost always struggled in the second half. Part of it is the schedule. The Giants generally face tougher competition in the second half. But most of it is the Giants themselves. I think the players get a sense of complacency and lose a game or two they shouldn't – this year, it was the Bengals – and things go downhill from there.
For whatever reason, the Giants respond when there is no margin for error. Coughlin himself can't put his finger on it, but these second-half slumps have been a problem throughout his run in New York. But they usually rally at the end, and that was certainly the case in their two Super Bowl years. The players said after beating the Saints on Sunday that this is where they do their best work – when it's win-or-else. And defensive end Justin Tuck did admit that the Giants may have gotten too full of themselves after "statement game" wins over the 49ers and Packers earlier in the year.
RR: Staying with the Giants, do you think "Big Blue" has the inside track at winning the 2012 NFC East title?
BG: I do. Obviously they win the division if they win out the last three weeks. But even if they lose once, I think they'll still get in. Washington and Dallas play each other the last week, so that will probably cancel one of those teams out, at least for the division. But it will not be easy for the Giants, and the next two weeks will go a long way toward deciding the race. At Atlanta, at Baltimore.
RR: Let's move on to the 2012 NFC South Champion Atlanta Falcons, who are coming off a 30-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Mike Smith's team is 19-3 since 2008 following a loss and is undefeated at home this season (6-0). How do you see Sunday's matchup against the defending world champions?
BG: I realize this is a passing league, but I'm still convinced the Falcons need to run the ball better and more reliably, and that's just not happening. Matt Ryan is having a terrific year, but when you don't have a running game to at least keep teams honest, I think that ultimately hurts him. The Giants' defensive front is one of the best in football, and Jason Pierre-Paul is a game-changing type rusher. That front hasn't been as consistent as it was last year, but if it's on, then I think the Giants have the advantage. Eli Manning has been up-and-down lately, so I think there are some things the Falcons can take advantage of, especially on deeper routes. All things being equal, I give the Giants a slight edge. Should be close, though, in the 27-24 range.
RR: Falcons WR Julio Jones needs 3 yards receiving in order to record his first 1,000-yard season. What are your thoughts on Jones?
BG: Elite receiver with room to grow. I think he benefits from having Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, but this is a guy who is certainly capable of dominating games on his own. Route running is excellent, top end speed, very good hands. Complete package.
RR: Why don't many of the NFL experts around the country think very much of the Seattle Seahawks, who can run the ball, stop the run and play defense?
BG: And very reliable quarterback play, as well. Russell Wilson is probably the biggest surprise of the season. If Seattle does get into the playoffs, I think they'll be a very tough out. Have to give Pete Carroll props. I think he has shown a lot of people that he's a more effective NFL head coach than he was with the Jets and New England. He is the ultimate players' coach, and he has something special going in Seattle, even if the Seahawks aren't always in the conversation.
RR: Are the Green Bay Packers (9-4) peaking at the right time or will the Chicago Bears (8-5) fight their way back and force a tie with two weeks to play in the always competitive NFC North Division when the two teams square on Sunday at Soldier Field?
BG: I like Green Bay to win the division, and I think they can take advantage of some weaknesses that are now showing in Chicago. The Bears' defense is not as stout as it was earlier in the season, especially with Brian Urlacher missing. And they just can't protect Jay Cutler enough. So yes, I give Green Bay the edge against the Bears, and even if for some reason they don't win, I still see the Packers taking the division.
RR: And finally, give us your take on the New England Patriots. Are they heating up at the right time and will they be the AFC's representative at the Super Bowl this season?
BG: Best team in football right now. Tom Brady's ability to maintain such a high level of play is astonishing at age 35, and the defense is really starting to play well. The front seven has been much more effective in recent weeks, and that has made it easier for a secondary that is probably the only weakness on this team. Looks like Bill Belichick has a chance to make it half a dozen Super Bowl appearances since 2001.