Originally written on The Other Paper  |  Last updated 11/18/14
The New York Giants passing game may have to Cruz alone this Sunday night if injuries to Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham keep two-thirds of their three-headed monster sidelined.

But not if Tom Coughlin's outlook is as rosy as his cheeks.

The head coach said he was "optimistic right now"  that both players could take the field in the do-or-die game against the Dallas Cowboys and join Eli Manning's latest favorite target Victor Cruz on the field.

Nicks—who re-injured his hamstring in the first quarter Saturday against the New York Jets—expects to be ready when the Giants meet the Cowboys for the NFC East title at MetLife Stadium.

The receiver sat out yesterday's practice but is feeling Coughlin's optimism.

"I don't see myself missing this game," said Nicks.

Giants fans shouldn't take that remark to heart— just yet.

"If I'm out there, I'd like to say I'd be myself, but you never know," he said.  "These things are tricky.  I'm gonna go ahead and claim I'll be myself out there.  I always got to think positive."

D'oh!  That's a big IF.

Manning will need all the help he can get in Sunday night's big game if Cruz is the only deep threat in his repertoire.

A wobbly Manningham returned to practice on Wednesday on a limited basis after resting his knee against the Jets.  He had been nagged by the swollen joint for weeks and spent most of his game time on the sidelines.

Nicks could be the key to unleashing Cruz once again if  Manning gets into a shootout with the Cowboys Tony Romo.

Cruz won't catch an opposing team by surprise any more.  After all, he leads the Giants with 76 receptions for a Giants season-high record 1,358 yards.  You can bet the Dallas D will be keying on the speedy wide-out.

As for Nicks (71 rec., 1116 yards, 6 TD's), who had only one catch for 20 yards while being blanketed by the Jets All-World DB Darrelle Revis, it sometimes comes down to a case of the dropsies.  He's dropped a couple of crucial passes over the past two games but said the weather was a factor.

"I can go a stretch where I won't drop a ball for five, six weeks," said Nicks.  "I don't normally have drop after drop after drop after drop.  It's normally... I go a whole season without drops, then I have a period where I might fit some in there, but that's me because I'm starting to lack concentration or something like that."

Concentration is one thing, injuries are another.

Asked about how far along the hamstring was Nicks said, " I notice it, I can't really dig like I want to right now."

He then put it in perspective.

"[I'm] close to 100 percent as I can get.  I don't think nobody's gonna be 100 percent playing football this time of year.  Something's gonna be hurting, but come game time, you know how to put all that stuff behind you."

How important are Nicks and Manningham in this game?

Nicks had eight catches for a season-high 163 yards and Manningham had a 47-yard TD in the Giants 37-34 win against Dallas on Dec. 11 at Cowboys Stadium.

"I ain't the type of guy that looks for no excuses," said Nicks.  "If I am out there, I've got to be ready to go."
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