Giants Look to Bounce Back From Loss Against Jaguars on Monday Night

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Injuries were a big reason why the New York Giants missed a chance to claim the NFC's best record last weekend. They hope that's all the disheartening loss cost them.

After suffering several more key injuries, the banged-up Giants (6-3) look to rebound from a home defeat to Chicago when they take on the Jacksonville Jaguars (5-4) at Alltel Stadium on Monday night.

Oddsmakers have made Jacksonville -4 point spread favorites (NFL Odds) for tonights game, the over/under has been set at 38.5 total points (NFL Sports Books).

New York came into last week's game against the Bears missing five starters. The lack of depth eventually caught up to the Giants, as they blew a 10-point lead and lost 38-20.

Making matters worse, New York also saw cornerback Sam Madison (hamstring) and tackle Luke Petitgout (broken leg) go down, while star running back Tiki Barber suffered an injured finger.

Coach Tom Coughlin said he's unsure who will return this week. Petitgout is likely out for the year, joining receiver Amani Toomer, who sustained a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago.

Madison re-injured his hamstring on the rain-slick Giants Stadium field. Michael Strahan (mid-foot sprain) was already out and could miss up to three more weeks, and fellow All-Pro defensive end Osi Umenyiora is listed as doubtful for Sunday with a hip flexor.

Starting linebackers Carlos Emmons (groin) and Brandon Short (quad) are questionable.

Of the injured players, Barber is the only one who's expected to play against Jacksonville. The NFL's leading rusher with 971 yards, Barber suffered a sprained right thumb against the Bears.

``It's painful, but I'll play with it,'' he said. ``I haven't been on any pain medication, so it's not killing me, and that's really a good thing.''

New York needs all the help it can get as it looks to get back on track. With a chance to tie the Bears at 7-2 and seize the tiebreaker, the Giants dominated early, building a 13-3 lead while shutting down Chicago offensively.

New York, though, couldn't maintain its momentum and seemed to wear down against Chicago, which got a 108-yard Devin Hester return of a missed field goal and big games from quarterback Rex Grossman, Thomas Jones and Muhsin Muhammad as it rallied to win.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning should be happy to be done with Brian Urlacher and the Bears' NFC-best defense, as he went 14-of-32 for a season-low 121 yards and two interceptions. He failed to throw a touchdown for the first time this season.

``He knows that it wasn't a good game and he didn't play well,'' Coughlin said of Manning, who's thrown as many touchdowns (six) as interceptions in the last five games.

``We talked about why and he has a little time to reflect on that now. ... He certainly is upset about it and would do anything he could to rectify the situation, but as in all these things, they're gone. It's on to the next one.''

Barber says he's optimistic despite the Giants' five-game winning streak ending, pointing out that New York is still is good shape in the NFC.

``I think it's twofold: one, we're in good position at 6-3 and we still have great control of our season,'' he said, ``two, some of these young guys are getting their first chance and getting an opportunity to make a difference.''

Coughlin will be facing his former team for the first time since being fired in 2002. He was the Jaguars' first coach in 1995 and led them to the AFC championship game twice, finishing with a 68-60 record.

``I'm going out a different door, that's for sure, and if I remember, it's not a long walk,'' Coughlin told about being in the visitors' locker room at Alltel Stadium this week. ``It'll be a different experience, no doubt. Being on the other sideline will be different.''

The Jaguars roster still includes 13 players acquired by Coughlin.

One of them, quarterback David Garrard, struggled in Jacksonville's 13-10 defeat to Houston last week. He went 15-of-34 for 214 yards and threw four interceptions in his first loss as a starter.

Garrard played in place of Byron Leftwich, one of several tense situations surrounding the team. Coach Jack Del Rio benched left tackle Khalif Barnes for the game following his arrest on drunken-driving charges, and receivers Reggie Williams and Ernest Wilford got into a sideline shoving match in the closing minutes of Sunday's loss, the Jags' second of the season to the Texans.

Garrard appears likely to start again this week, as Leftwich headed to Birmingham, Ala., on Monday to get a second opinion on his injured left ankle. He listed as questionable.

Leftwich, though, disputed some of Del Rio's assertions to the media last week that the injury was the reason he wasn't starting, saying no doctor had told him that extended rest would make a difference and that he believed his benching was performance-based.

Del Rio was testy Monday when discussing his team and the situations surrounding it.

``We've got an inconsistent team that has a coach that doesn't have control of the team. That's what you want to write,'' Del Rio said sarcastically. ``That's complete bull.''

Three of Jacksonville's four defeats have come against teams with losing records.

The Giants and Jaguars will be meeting for the first time since 2002. New York has won two of the three matchups, but Jacksonville's win came at home by a 40-13 score in 1997.

By: Michael Cash - - Email Us

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