Giants embracing wintry conditions with Panthers coming to town

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- With the snow falling briskly and wind blowing, the New York Giants looked like a bunch of school kids walking from their practice facility back into Giants Stadium on Friday.

The notion that they had to play the Carolina Panthers on Sunday night in a game for the top seed in the NFC seemed the farthest thing from their minds as New Jersey was hit with its first major snowstorm of the season.

As Eli Manning walked down the incline leading into the stadium, kicker Lawrence Tynes fired a snowball.

"I got him right in the back of the helmet," Tynes gloated later in the locker room.

Unfortunately for Tynes, there were a couple of inches of slush in the bottom of his locker, covering some of his shoes.

Defensive end Justin Tuck took the credit, claiming to be "The Iceman." His target was running back Derrick Ward and Tynes' locker just happened to be in the way.

Ward vowed payback.

"Someone got me in the back of the helmet," Tuck said of another snowball, adding he was uncertain of the culprit.

It was all good-natured, but the Giants (11-3) liked the idea of playing the Panthers (11-3) in inclement weather.

The snowstorm on Friday was forecast to bring 4-8 inches of snow to the Meadowlands sports complex. Sunday's forecast called for rain, blustery winds and the possibility of a little more snow.

"Weather is good, good for us, New York, Giants Stadium," middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "It's two good teams that can run the ball. We know what kind of game it is going to be. Right there, boom. It's laid out. The coaches don't have to write out the game plan because you know what the game plan is."

Pierce even joked that he was not going to look over to coordinator Steve Spagnuolo for any signals, knowing both teams are probably going to have to run the ball more than throw.

"I like it when it's like this," defensive tackle Barry Cofield added. "It makes it a game that is going to be won on the ground. Those kind of games are won up front and that's what we pride ourselves in. That's what we enjoy. We have one of the best O-Line, D-Line combinations in the league, and I think that is an advantage for us."

While several players said that the conditions will not favor either team, the Giants have something to draw on from last season.

They won the NFC Championship in Green Bay, Wis., when the wind chill made the temperature feel like minus-20.

"We practice in it so I'm used to it now," Giants receiver Steve Smith said. "You have to have tights on and the heat. After Green Bay, playing in that, that gave me an edge where I feel like I can do anything."

Kicker John Carney, who made the Pro Bowl this year at age 44, played for the Chiefs at Giants Stadium last season during a wet and cold Sunday in the final week of the regular season. He said the footing on the Giants Stadium turf is very good.

"If the field is messy, it might benefit you to slow it down a little bit," Carney said. "The rush will be a little slower as well because they don't get the same traction. The game slows down a little bit."

Coach Tom Coughlin said he would take a wait-and-see position on the conditions. He was more interested in the Giants fans.

"The fans have to be our 12th man on Sunday night," Coughlin said. "That is real important to us."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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