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Eli Manning, Lovie Smith make must-win claims

Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning don't have a lot in common, but they're both men averse to making bombastic statements.

(Translation: Their press conferences aren't exactly must-see television events.)

That's why it's notable both Smith and Manning threw down their respective gauntlets Monday. Let's start in New York, where the Giants are 2-4 over their last six games. They can't lose another game.

"This is as important a game as you can have, this upcoming game, and our mindset is the playoffs have started," Manning said. "This is it. This game right here is huge. It's the most important game and it's a must-win game for us."

The Giants head to face the Baltimore Ravens, a team that Eli's brother, Peyton, just trounced. Eli confirmed he'll talk with Peyton this week to get some tips about the Ravens. Now 8-6, the Giants have two routes to make the playoffs -- the NFC East title and a possible wild-card spot.

The Bears only are aiming for the wild card. They have lost five of their last six games. They can't lose another.

"Yesterday's game was a must game for the NFC North championship, but besides that, it wasn't a must game as far as what can happen with our season," Smith said, via the Bears' official website. "This week, we're to that must game, I mean the tournament has begun for us, so it's about Arizona. ... We have to find a way to get to 10-6."

Even 10-6 doesn't guarantee anything for the Bears. So maybe the Packers game was a must-win, and Smith just didn't realize it.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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