It's a wrap.
1. New York Giants (13-7). The other day, Tom Coughlin said to me, "Don Shula's amazing. Amazing! Look at how many games he's won!'' Shula's won 347. Coughlin won his 154th last night and would be lucky, obviously, to get to 200 one day. But I do think Coughlin's amazing himself, to have withstood the stress of this job with an expansion team for half his career and one of the modern powerhouses for the other half ... and to have won an average of 9.6 games a year
2. New England (15-4). Super Bowl titles won, last 10 seasons: Giants 2, Steelers 2, Patriots 2.
3. San Francisco (14-4). Worst thing about their NFC title game loss: Niners watched the Super Bowl and said, "We should have been there.'' Best thing about their NFC title game loss: Now maybe a team (Washington, Miami, Seattle) won't go overboard and pay Alex Smith $12 million a year.
4. Baltimore (13-5). Listen to Tony Dungy talk about Jim Caldwell's ability to erase mistakes from quarterback play, and you'll be convinced that Joe Flacco is in very good hands with his new quarterback coach.
5. Green Bay (15-2). Aaron Rodgers was splendid on NBC in the pregame show. Not afraid to be a little irreverent.
6. New Orleans (14-4). Everybody who keeps asking the Drew Brees free agency question needs to understand the Saints aren't letting him go, under any circumstances. If they don't get him re-signed, he'll be franchised. No way he's not under center for the Saints opening day.
7. Houston (11-7). Scout receivers, Rick Smith.
8. Pittsburgh (12-5). The interview with Todd Haley for offensive coordinator was a courtesy interview. There's a sense Haley's too tough to get along with. That plus the fact that, on his way out of Kansas City, he implied to the Kansas City Star that the team was bugging his phone. Leveling unfounded accusations against your employer (and if there is anything to them, then let's have the proof) to the media is not a very good way to get a job in a league where other teams think those who own and run the Chiefs are good men.
9. Detroit (10-7). No way they can let Cliff Avril walk in free agency.
10. Atlanta (10-7). Looming star of football announcing: Tony Gonzalez. Wowed a few people in Indy with his quickness.
11. Denver (9-9). One week without a Tebow feature or a Tebow story of any kind .. Good play.
12. Philadelphia (8-8). Ninety miles down the New Jersey Turnpike, the Eagles' fans look at the Giants and say in unison, "All right, Andy Reid. Two titles in four years for the Giants. Our patience has run out.''
13. Arizona (8-8). The Cards should be sniffing around the fringes of Peyton Manning, with Larry Fitzgerald and that defense.
14. San Diego (8-8). I can't look at Osi Umenyiora without thinking what a slam-dunk impact player he'd have been for the Chargers if the Giants had let him go in 2004.
15. Miami (6-10). Most common-sense rumor of Super Bowl week: Stephen Ross wants Peyton Manning.
Offensive Player of the Week
Giants QB Eli Manning. I've come to the conclusion that his laissez-faire attitude is one of the things that makes him a great player. He doesn't sweat the small stuff. How else do you explain the great play late in so many big games? In his two Super Bowl victories, Manning is a 66 percent passer with 551 passing yards and one turnover. And his throw to Manningham with the season on the line ... priceless.
Defensive Player of the Week
Giants DL Justin Tuck. Give credit to the Patriots for sealing off the holes they couldn't seal four years ago. The Giants weren't as successful rushing the passer as they were in the previous Super Bowl against New England, but Tuck did get two sacks, the second of which left Brady with a left shoulder injury that will be painful this morning. While the Patriots shut down the rush of Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul with strong play on the left side of their line, Tuck got the best penetration of the night.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Giants P Steve Weatherford. Other than one sloppy touchback, his day was stellar. His four punts left the Patriots to start from their 6-, 20-, 4- and 8-yard lines.
Coach of the Week
Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. Sometimes you have to take what the defense gives you. Sometimes you have to attack the defense when it's not giving you much, in hopes that your key guys can make a play or two that logic says isn't coming. I thought Gilbride had a great feel for this game. It's not always total rushing yards; number of rushes is just as important when you want to keep the ball away from the other quarterback. The Giants' 28 rushes (4.1 per rush) helped them to 37 minutes of possession time. Gilbride had to figure out what the Patriots were doing on defense, which took a while (like, about 55 minutes). "It was a tough game to call,'' Gilbride said, "because they're a tough team to go against. They don't let you figure out what they're doing very easily.''
Goat of the Week
New England WR Wes Welker. It wasn't the easiest ball to catch, but with four minutes left and the Patriots hanging on to a 17-15 lead, Brady saw Welker get behind coverage, so he threw him the ball at the Giant 22. Welker had both hands cleanly on the ball. As he fell to the ground, he somehow lost control of it. Instead of the Patriots having the ball at the New York 20 with the clock running and the Giants having only one timeout left, Brady couldn't convert the 3re-and-11 play and the Pats punted. A catch by Welker there and the Patriots could at least take the clock down to two minutes, with at least three points likely before turning it over to the Giants.
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