The NFC East is still within reach, even though the Giants’ playoff hopes seem bleak.
Joe Judge’s Giants (5-9) still can win the division under two scenarios with two games to play:
1. If the Giants win their last two games and Washington loses one, the Giants would win the NFC East at 7-9 holding the tiebreaker in a head-to-head season series sweep.
2. If the Giants lose to the Baltimore Ravens this week but beat the Dallas Cowboys in their season finale, they would win the division at 6-10 provided that Washington lost both of its remaining games and the Philadelphia Eagles beat Dallas this weekend.
A 6-10 division winning record would make the wrong kind of history. The 2010 Seattle Seahawks’ 7-9 mark is the worst record by a division winner since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.
The Giants wouldn’t think twice about their record if they made the postseason for the first time since 2016 and won the NFC East for the first time since 2011, of course.
But Judge has been adamant since the start of this season that he’s not judging this season’s success or failure by whether the Giants make the playoffs, either.
“I don’t think our progress as a team is going to be measured necessarily on making the playoffs. I’m focused right now on Baltimore this week,” Judge said Monday. “There’s a lot of things we have to improve on, big picture wise. I’m not downplaying (the) playoffs. We’re all here for the highest prize in all of sports. At the same time, I’m a firm believer in just keeping our sights on what the immediate goal is and the long-term goal will take care of itself.”
Judge seemingly has issued an edict that he doesn’t want players discussing the playoffs, too.
Tight end Evan Engram on Monday looked downright frightened when he was asked on Monday if this season can be a success if the Giants don’t win the division.
“I don’t really understand the question,” a nervous Engram said, before regrouping and adding: “I think our goal is to go win the division. That means our goal is to make the playoffs. Obviously, we put ourselves in that position. It will be disappointing if we don’t. I guess not.”
Obviously, the Giants are fortunate to still be relevant, even after their four-game winning streak from Week 9-13 straddling their Week 11 bye.
The only reason they are still in contention is because the NFC East is historically bad as a whole for a second straight season.
The lowest percentage by an NFL division in a season since 1970 is the 2008 NFC West (22-42, .344), per Elias Sports Sports Bureau.
The 2019 NFC East came close at .375 with a record of 24-40.
This year’s NFC East likely will avoid matching the 2008 NFC West’s futility, since the division’s record is currently 20-35-1 with three head-to-head games in division remaining.
But the 2020 NFC East could finish as poorly as 23-40-1.
Another reason Judge probably doesn’t want his team talking about the playoffs is that the odds are against them getting in. Washington (6-8) has the upper hand, with the Eagles (4-9-1) and Cowboys (5-9) also in play.
The Giants would be eliminated on Sunday with a loss at Baltimore plus a Washington or Philadelphia win. Washington is hosting Carolina (4-10), and the Eagles are visiting Dallas.
Since Washington and Philly play head-to-head in Week 17, one of them would be guaranteed to finish ahead of the Giants if either wins on Sunday and the Giants lose.
If the Giants beat the Ravens (9-5) on Sunday, they’ll remain alive heading to Week 17 regardless, since they could still get in with a Washington loss to the Eagles in their finale.
Judge would rather not discuss the playoffs as a possibility, though. He knows his team needs to get there first, and the odds aren’t in their favor.
“There may be a time that we talk about it in the future, possibly, based on what the situation is,” Judge said of whether the Giants discuss the playoffs internally. “That being said, it’s always been my belief to keep focused on what you’re doing right now.
“Anything that may or may not come after that doesn’t even exist yet,” Judge added. “Wasting mental energy and focus on something that doesn’t exist, to me, is just wasted time. We need to focus on Baltimore. They are very real. They are getting ready. They’re a very good team, they are very well coached. They are very talented, they are very physical. They’re good in all three phases and they have some dynamic players. We start looking past Baltimore, then anything that may come after them is not going to matter anyway.”
JONES LOOKS IMPROVED IN PRACTICE
Daniel Jones (ankle/hamstring) moved much better at Wednesday’s practice and was the first quarterback under center with the offense. He was listed as a limited participant, but barring a setback, it appears he is in line for a likely return on Sunday against the Ravens.
“I did all I could last week, and that’s certainly my approach this week,” Jones said Wednesday. “I’m working as hard as I can. I really do want to be out there with the guys and go after a win on Sunday.”
Jones has missed two of the Giants’ last four games. They have a 1-1 record in Colt McCoy’s starts: a 17-12 Week 13 win in Seattle and a 20-6 Week 15 home loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Joining Jones as limited on Wednesday were tight end Evan Engram (calf), corner Darnay Holmes (knee), rookie offensive tackle Matt Peart (ankle) and wideout Golden Tate (calf).
Tate participated in early individual drills then stepped off with the trainers looking at his lower right leg. Peart did not play last Sunday against Arizona because of a last-minute ailment that had popped up, per Judge. It appears it’s the ankle that’s been bothering him.
Especially with Tate iffy, this is the week Judge should dress wideout Dante Pettis. Pettis also returns kicks, and the Giants need to make a change from Dion Lewis, who has fumbled each of the last two games.