A couple key Giants missed the regular season meeting with the Patriots in New England. None is more important to New York's offense than wide receiver Hakeem Nicks.
Nicks was second on New York with 76 receptions for 1,192 yards and seven touchdowns during the regular season.
But the big-play target has come up even bigger in the postseason. He leads the Giants through three playoff games with 18 receptions for 335 yards with four touchdowns, including a number of big-play scores.
According to a couple different Patriots defensive backs, Nicks presents a huge challenge for the defense to deal with Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"He's dangerous, man," safety Patrick Chung almost raved. "When the ball's in the air, he can go get it. He has big hands, big hands. He has XXXXL gloves. He's good man. I can't take anything from them, they're a good receiving corps."
Second-year Pro Bowl cornerback Devin McCourty said that part of what makes Nicks so dangerous is that he can beat you almost anywhere on the field.
"He's a big-play guy. I think the biggest thing that jumps out when you watch him is how he attacks the football in the air," McCourty said. "He's made catches in front of two and three guys. He's also made catches for 10 yards and broken the tackle – the Atlanta game and the Green Bay game – and gone the distance. Hakeem Nicks is a big-play receiver for them. Whether it's throwing it up to him or catch-and-run, we're going to have to tackle him and get him to the ground and compete when the ball is in the air."
Combine Nicks with second-team All-Pro Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham and the Giants sport arguably the best group of passing targets New England has faced all year.
In fact Chung wasn't ready to argue that point, he thinks the Giants are indeed the biggest test the much-maligned secondary has seen to date.
"As a corps, I think so. You have three receivers who can make a big play if anyone gets the ball, definitely," Chung said.
And this time, unlike during the regular season, New England has to deal with a red-hot Nicks.