EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When New York Coach Bill Parcells looks into the mirror Sunday, perhaps what he will see are the Chicago Bears, a team that, like his Giants, was built for cold-weather playoffs in the good old outdoors.

Giants football. Bears football. Both cut from the same mold.

"It'll probably be one of them games like back in the olden days, two yards and a cloud of dust," said Ottis Anderson, the Giants' veteran running back. "Anybody looking for excitement ought to go to 'Something on Ice.' "

Aside from traditional style, the teams bring in other similarities to Giants Stadium. Due to injuries, both will be starting quarterbacks who had been backups, Jeff Hostetler for New York and Mike Tomczak for Chicago. And each team started strong before finishing the regular season in a crawl (the Giants went 3-3 after a 10-0 start; the Bears finished 2-4 after a 9-1 start).

For a coach known to be excitable, Parcells seems remarkably relaxed entering the postseason, especially after "working seven days a week since July 19."

Parcells is a pragmatist who even rooted for the hated Redskins last weekend and "most definitely" will be rooting for the Giants' ancient rivals again Saturday in San Francisco. Glasnost in the East Division.

First the Redskins knocked off the Eagles, who have won four of the last five against the Giants. If the Redskins upset the 49ers, they can give the Giants home-field advantage in the NFC championship game -- provided, of course, the Giants beat the Bears.

Does Parcells give Washington a chance against the 49ers?

"They didn't have a chance last week," said Parcells, who like the reporters he chided, picked the Eagles to win the wild-card game, "and they're still playing."

Parcells may not go down in football history as a great X's and O's mind. He invented no flex defense, no run-and-shoot offense. He prefers solid, up-your-gut football to trickery.

"Funny how all those conservative teams are still in the playoffs," he said. "I don't know that's a coincidence."

He may not be an inventor, but he can innovate. As the Giants' defensive coordinator back in 1981, Parcells was wise enough to allow a rookie to play improvisations at outside linebacker. Ever since, Lawrence Taylor has freely roamed the field.

The secret of his success may be how he gets others to succeed. As linebacker Carl Banks said, "He knows what buttons to push."

In the homestretch, the Giants edged the lowly Phoenix Cardinals and New England Patriots. Parcells took no chances that there could be a carryover.

Last week he had his assistants suggest that maybe some players would have no future at the Meadowlands. Many of the players squawked. Parcells smiled. The Giants had their best practice sessions in weeks.

Parcells uses his veterans to pass on his messages. Banks said those Giants who played, and lost, to the Bears in 1985 and in 1987 would "relay the message of what kind of game it's going to be."

If there's one constant about Parcells, it is his goal to not be consistent.

"I'm not interested in being consistent," he said. "I'm interested in being right."