- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
- American football player
It’s Week 17. It’s 2021. And the Giants’ final game of the 2020 regular season matters.
That’s a refreshing change from recent years.
But the question now is whether Joe Judge’s team will go out with a whimper in a fourth straight loss or if they’ll rise up, beat the Dallas Cowboys, get help from the Philadelphia Eagles, and go to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
They could also do their part, beat Dallas, and still be on the outside looking in.
Tight end Evan Engram said a postseason berth would mean “everything.”
“The last three years here (are) obviously not up to standard,” Engram said this week. “(With) the progress and all the work we’ve put in this year and everything we’ve been through. Obviously, we have to go out and execute and win this game for that to be a possibility. But it would mean a lot.”
The Giants (5-10) can’t get in just by beating the Dallas Cowboys (6-9) on Sunday. They need a win and then a loss by Washington (6-9) to the Philadelphia Eagles (4-10-1) on Sunday night.
If that scenario happens, the Giants at 6-10 would hold the worst record ever for a division winner, slipping below the 2010 Seattle Seahawks, who won that year’s NFC West at 7-9.
The Giants, Washington and Cowboys all would have a 6-10 record, but the Giants would win based on three-way, head-to-head tiebreaker. The Giants’ 3-1 record against Washington and Dallas would trump Washington’s 2-2 and the Cowboys’ 1-3.
Judge’s club needs a lot to break their way to keep their season alive, however. It looks as if the Eagles are resting several key starters, which could render the Giants-Cowboys result moot.
So it’s more likely not only that the Giants’ season will end Sunday but that this will be the final game for several key players in this organization and on this team.
Dave Gettleman could be watching his final game as GM Sunday, with a 14-33 record entering his final game of year three.
Jason Garrett could be coaching his final game as offensive coordinator for a bunch of reasons. Daniel Jones’ development is sputtering, the offense is slagging, Garrett’s offensive line coach was fired midseason, and there are possible head coaching opportunities elsewhere.
Big salaries Kevin Zeitler and Golden Tate on offense might not be back in blue.
That’s just a few names who might not be long for East Rutherford if the Giants are eliminated.
And while Jones isn’t going anywhere, it would be helpful if he could back up Judge’s recent bullish confidence in his quarterback by getting into double digit touchdown passes for the season, at least. He has only nine TD passes in 13 games.
If the Giants do get into the playoffs, they would be the NFC’s fourth seed and most likely would host Tom Brady and the fifth-seeded Buccaneers (10-5), provided that Tampa Bay beats the Atlanta Falcons Sunday or the L.A. Rams lose to the Arizona Cardinals.
That would mark a rematch of a crushing 25-23 Week 8 Giants loss to the Bucs on Monday Night Football at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 2. The Giants led that game 14-6 at halftime, but Jones threw it away with two second-half interceptions.
Now it’s on Jones Sunday to score significantly more points than the Giants have been in order to simply keep up with the Cowboys.
Andy Dalton and Dallas are averaging 30 points the last three games and have won all three over the Bengals, 49ers and Eagles. They boast a receiving corps of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb that the Giants simply cannot defend for four quarters, especially if coordinator Pat Graham doesn’t bounce back after two straight weeks of insufficient game plans.
Dallas is fresh off a 37-point explosion that eliminated Philadelphia.
The Giants are scoring 8.6 points per game the last three weeks in losses to better competition: the Cardinals, Browns and Ravens. Jones has been hobbled by hamstring and ankle injuries. Colt McCoy started the loss to the Browns with Freddie Kitchens calling plays with Garrett on the COVID-19 reserve list. But the Giants simply can’t convert in the red zone consistently.
Last week’s 27-13 loss in Baltimore also was one of the Giants’ most disappointing performances of the season. They were certainly outclassed talent-wise, but they did not show up for the first half and gave up 249 rushing yards.
Judge has the arrow pointing more up than down this season, given what he inherited, but the momentum of the Giants’ four-game winning streak from Weeks 9 through 13 is long gone. They were getting better every week for a time, and their 17-12 road win at Seattle on Dec. 6 in Week 13 with McCoy at quarterback was their best win in four years.
Mike McCarthy’s Cowboys certainly are far from perfect. Their defense doesn’t scare anybody. They give up 30 points per game (30th in the NFL) and 389.8 yards per game (26th). They have been one of the most disappointing teams in all of football, even with franchise QB Dak Prescott going down for the year in the Cowboys’ 37-34 Week 5 win over the Giants in Arlington, Tex.
The Giants can feel good about scoring 34 points in their first meeting. They could have had more if Jones hadn’t missed a deep pass to a wide-open Darius Slayton and if Judge’s fake field goal TD pass to Engram hadn’t been called back for an illegal shift.
That said, Jones and the Giants offense only led one full field touchdown drive the entire game. Graham Gano kicked four field goals. Kyler Fackrell returned an interception 46 yards for a touchdown. And the offense only needed to go 17 yards for a second half Devonta Freeman 4-yard TD run after a Blake Martinez fumble recovery.
The Giants’ 31st-ranked offense (17.1 points per game) remains one of the organization’s greatest disappointments and indications of how far the Giants and Jones still have to go. They enter Sunday just 28 points ahead of the league-worst Jets.
Jones did practice in full all week, and his ankle came off the injury report, which were encouraging signs. But he also lamented that he is not healthy and won’t be able to escape the pocket again on Sunday.
Perhaps he’s bluffing. Giants fans would like to think so, though Judge certainly didn’t seem amused by Jones’ honesty, saying his quarterback was more forthcoming than the coach would have been.
The Giants need Jones to step up, though, and not just because they need to see more out of him and win this game. They are also at risk of finishing in last place in the 2020 NFC East, one of the worst divisions in NFL history. That would happen if they lose to the Cowboys and the Eagles also beat Washington.
The NFC East will finish 23-40-1 (.359) barring a tie in Sunday’s two remaining in-division games. That would barely beat last season’s horrible NFC East (24-40, .375) but still leave the 2008 NFC West (22-42, .344) as the worst division winning percentage since the 1970 merger.
Win or lose, the Giants’ rebuild is in its infant stages. As Judge said Thursday, they’re headed in the right direction but they need to keep drafting well and signing free agents to bolster their talent and depth.
It would certainly be nice to end on a win, though, even in a pandemic-emptied MetLife Stadium, to start the New Year with a more positive outlook than the Giants are used to.