It’s easy to think the New York Giants have nothing to play for in Sunday’s season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.
They’ve already clinched their spot in the playoffs, locking up the No. 6 seed without a chance to move up or down in the NFC standings. Regardless of Sunday’s result, they’ll be playing whichever team ends up No. 3.
Right now, that’s the Vikings. It could also end up being any other top team in the conference depending on how things shake up in Week 18. It’s an unfamiliar but good place for the Giants to be this late in the season.
What it’s not is an excuse to take the week off. The Giants can take it from their own franchise history, there’s plenty at stake.
It’s been 15 years since New York pulled off a miracle in Super Bowl XLII to beat the undefeated New England Patriots as a 10-6 Wild Card team. However, that wouldn’t have been possible without the team’s season finale about a month earlier against those same Patriots.
With no incentive for the Giants to win, Tom Coughlin opted to play his starters. They pushed the Patriots to the absolute brink of defeat, only losing by a field goal. That game gave the team confidence they could hang with anybody in the playoffs — including the Patriots if they met again. It spurred their run to a title.
Of course, the 2022 Giants aren’t the 2007 Giants. Daniel Jones isn’t Eli Manning. His receiving corps and offensive line aren’t the ones Manning had. And most noticeably, this year’s defense doesn’t have the all-time great pass rush that Giants team had.
But part of being recognized as great is doing it in the playoffs, and the Giants haven’t shown anything this season to suggest they can. They’re a combined 0-5 against the NFC playoff field as it stands now, which includes the Seahawks at No. 7. They’re 1-1 against the outside Lions and Packers. Nothing suggests they can hang with the Eagles, 49ers or Cowboys.
According to the New York Post, the Giants plan to sit key starters on Sunday, but that reeks of complacency and won’t end well. The goal should be getting better.
Like the Patriots in 2007, who were chasing history, the Eagles have something to play for in the finale too. They can lock up a first-round bye with a win, and Jalen Hurts is trending towards returning to help them do it. Vegas doesn’t expect the Giants to compete, setting them as 14-point underdogs.
For the Giants, Week 18 is an opportunity to get injured players like Leonard Williams and Azeez Ojulari healthy. But it’s also a chance to stay in a rhythm from the last three games and play a real power in the NFL to prove to themselves they can hang. It’s especially important if they end up playing the Eagles again.
Could they end up getting bounced in the first round regardless? For sure. But they’re likely to be an underdog either way. The least they can do is take some good energy into the playoffs with them.
Or, they can take the week off before getting ousted a few days later and wonder what could have been. The choice seems simple to me.
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