EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - This is one of those years New York Giants defensive captain Justin Tuck would like to forget.
Coming off his second Pro Bowl season, Tuck has had more injuries than sacks.
Count them: neck, groin, ankle, and finally a toe that somehow got bent out of shape. They have forced him to miss four games and play in several others where he has looked like a scrub instead of one of the NFL's most feared defensive ends.
The statistics say it all. His sack count is three, 81/2 fewer than he had in 2010, and he has only 31 tackles heading into Saturday's key game against the rival Jets (8-6) at MetLife Stadium. There have been no forced fumbles and no recoveries in a season where the entire defense has struggled and left Tom Coughlin's team with little wiggle room.
The Giants (7-7) need to beat Rex Ryan's team and Dallas (8-6) to get to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. They can lose Saturday and still back in, but then they no longer control their path.
"I think a lot of times you get caught up in the [numbers]," Tuck said Thursday after practice. "I've been to a few Pro Bowls. I've had 10-plus sack seasons. You get caught up in all of that. At the end of the day it's win. That's all I'm focused on right now."
On a positive note, Tuck was not listed on the team's injury report for only the second time this season. When asked how he felt, he said, "Great."
As in capital G great?
"As in Tony the Tiger great," Tuck said.
The goal now is to make the most of what is left in the season by delivering some big plays against Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.
"It's not like we're not out trying to make it happen," Tuck said. "It just hasn't happened. So I'm not going to allow myself to get down on that fact. We're going to keep pressing forward. Like you said, my numbers aren't going to be what they've been in past years, but we have two more games here, and my focus is making the best out of these two games, forgetting the last 14."
Like most of his teammates, Tuck didn't say anything controversial about the Jets. He bluntly said Ryan has done an outstanding job of putting the Jets back on the NFL map, and he expects a physical game with the Jets also fighting for a postseason berth.
Winning is all that matters, he said. Bragging rights are worthless.
"The only thing I care about is getting another one of those shiny things on my finger," Tuck said. "That's the only thing that we play this game for anyway. Ask Rex Ryan if he's cool with the [AFC] championship game two years in a row. Guarantee you he'll trade one of those for playing in the Super Bowl and winning it. At the end of the day, that's what we're playing for."
Notes. After missing the last three games with migraines caused by a neck injury, David Baas will start at center. Kevin Boothe will move back to left guard, and Mitch Petrus will sit. . . . DE Osi Umenyiora (ankle) and TE Jake Ballard (knee) are not going to play Saturday.