Can any thought be more mind-numbing than Jerry Jones popping the champagne next Sunday night in the visitor’s locker room at MetLife Stadium and celebrating the NFC East championship?
Just a few days ago, the Giants game next week against the ‘Boys had the potential to be the most high-pressure and compelling game for Big Blue since they won the Super Bowl five years ago.
Now, they’re just trying to hang onto a playoff bid.
Two pretty bad things happened in 72 hours: The Cowboys on Thursday night in Minnesota won their 11th straight game since the season-opening loss to the Giants and then the Giants had their six-game winning streak broken Sunday in Pittsburgh.
If the results went the other way, the Giants would have been one game back of the Cowboys with a chance to actually jump into first place on tie-breakers if they beat them Sunday night.
In any event, three of the Giants’ last four games are against NFC East teams, so the intensity is guaranteed to be there.
Although Sunday’s game has lost some of its edge because the NFC East title is a longshot for the Giants, it’s still crucial for them to beat Dallas in order to get past the first Sunday in January and into the Super Bowl Tournament. Washington’s (6-5-1) loss to Arizona eliminated it from the NFC East and allowed the Cowboys to be the first of 12 teams to clinch a playoff spot.
The Giants (8-4) are down a season-high three games in the standings to the Cowboys (11-1) with just four to play. A loss next week will eliminate them from the division race. They would be four back with three to play. A Giants victory will hold off elimination, put them two back with three to play, which is still a massive amount of ground to make up in a short period of time, basically leaving them with no margin for error.
Ben McAdoo’s team is 8-4 but there’s no reason to feel safe in the standings.
“It’s going be a big one. They’re playing good football. They’re obviously on a long winning streak,” Eli Manning said Sunday night after the offense again struggled. “At home, Sunday night should be a great environment and a big game, a big game for us. We’re still trying to win the division. We made it tough on ourselves, but that’s the still the mindset. Also we’re fighting for a playoff spot so we have a lead on other teams in the NFC I believe, and we either have to hold onto it – we have to keep winning football games, I know that. It’s a big game.”
Realistically, wild-card anyone?
That doesn’t appear to be any sure thing, either, although the Giants are in control of their own destiny for the No. 1 wild-card spot.
They have a one-game lead over the Falcons and Bucs, who are tied for the NFC South lead with 7-5 records. The Bucs are red hot with four straight victories, the middle two against the Chiefs and Seahawks.
Atlanta lost to the Chiefs 29-28 in a wild game that helped the Giants. The Falcons had taken a 28-27 lead on Matt Ryan’s touchdown pass with 4:32 remaining. The Falcons went for two to attempt to stretch their lead to a field goal, but Ryan’s pass was intercepted by Eric Berry, who took it the other way for two points. Kansas City held on for a 29-28 victory.
Atlanta and Tampa have already played each other twice – they split – so neither is guaranteed a loss. Even so, if you figure the Bucs or Falcons will win the division, the Giants will have to hold off the division loser and likely Washington to get one of the two wild-card spots. The Giants have a two-game lead on the Vikings and Packers, but don’t want to get into tie-breakers with them since they lost to them back-to-back on the road earlier this season.
Does Manning like the Giants’ position?
Rashad Jennings and the Giants will hope they can prevent the Cowboys from clinching the NFC East at their home stadium next week.
“It could always be better, it could be worse. It’s not a bad position,” he said. “I know Philly lost. I know Washington lost, so we didn’t lose any ground, I guess, on them. But I haven’t really checked out the whole picture of the NFC of who else won and lost. But it’s going to come down to these last four games, and we’ve got three in the division and Detroit that’s playing well and in the playoff hunt, so we’ve got four good teams we’ve got to play against and we have to handle our business and obviously it starts this week in a big one vs. Dallas.”
How difficult is the Giants’ schedule down the stretch?
Much tougher than the six teams they beat during their winning streak. Those half dozen are now a combined 23-48-1. The Steelers were only 6-5 before they beat the Giants.
The Giants finish up with the Cowboys and Lions (8-4) at home and then on the road in Philadelphia (5-7) and Washington. Those four are a combined 30-17-1. Detroit, with a two-game lead over the Vikings and Packers in the NFC North, has won four in a row and seven of its last eight games. If the Giants don’t take care of business, it could come down to New Year’s Day in the final game of the season in Washington.
The 8-4 record might be misleading, but really, how many good teams are there in the NFL this season anyway? Manning has proven he can get hot in the playoffs if he can get the Giants in. In his two Super Bowl championship seasons, the Giants were only 10-6 in 2007, tying for the worst regular season record by a Super Bowl champion, and then 9-7 in 2011, breaking the record for worst regular season by a Super Bowl champion.
The final month of games will be filled with anxiety for Giants Nation. But after not making the playoffs the last four seasons, and coming off three straight losing years when they won a total of only 19 games, at least the Giants are relevant again.
To get the final quarter of the season started properly, the Giants must prevent Jones from celebrating next Sunday night in their house.
Hold the champagne.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News