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Five things I think I think about the 8-3 New York Giants

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Giants haven’t earned a playoff berth yet, and here’s why

NFL: New York Giants at Cleveland Browns
Victor Cruz and the Giants are pointed in the right direction, but they haven’t arrived yet.
Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

With six straight victories and an 8-3 record, the New York Giants would be in the NFL playoffs if they begin today. There are some who think that, because that is how things stand today, that a playoff berth for the Giants is a fait accompli. That they have already won one.

A couple of them apparently even write here at Big Blue View. The NFC playoff picture post written Monday by Brandon left the impression that the Giants had already qualified, hinting at the Giants resembling their past two Super Bowl teams and stating that the Giants are “starting to put distance between themselves and everyone else in the wild-card race.” In his Monday Night Football preview, Keane more or less dismissed the idea that the Giants might not make the playoffs, basically stating that everyone else was competing for the other wild card spot that won’t go to the Giants.

I’m not here to put my young, overly excited contributors in their place. Or to rain on anyone’s playoff parade. I am here to tell everyone to slow down. The Giants have put themselves in an excellent spot, better than anyone could have imagined when they were 2-3 and reeling. They have not, however, won anything yet. There is much work still to be done, and an extremely difficult road to travel to get that work done.

Ben McAdoo was absolutely right Monday when he said the Giants have simply “set the table.”

“As a team, where do we go from here? It’s December football. This is where the real football begins. All our hard work to this point has set the table for December. It’s an exciting time against a lot of playoff teams and playoff environments. The margin for error is small. This is where our identity needs to take over,” McAdoo said Monday.

“All of our hard work up until this point has set the table for us to be playing meaningful football in December, which is what everyone in the league shoots for.”

Whether the Giants get to feast or not depends on what happens during the next five weeks. We will use today’s “Five things I think I think” loosely. I am really using it to make one point — that the Giants haven’t clinched a playoff berth yet. Ostensibly, we will use it to briefly discuss each of the five games the Giants have remaining.

Week 13: at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)

The last three teams the Giants defeated during their six-game winning streak were the Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns, a combined 5-28-1. The Giants are about to step up in class.

Ben Roethlisberger. Antonio Brown. Le’Veon Bell. A top-10 defense in terms of points allowed. It’s been a while since the Giants have seen a team like this. The Steelers have won three of four, interrupted only by a 35-30 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, and are tied with the Baltimore Ravens atop the AFC North.

To me, this is a dangerous game for the Giants, especially since human nature is that they will be peaking over their shoulder awaiting what comes next.

Week 14: vs. Dallas Cowboys (10-1)

You know the drill. Dak Prescott. Ezekiel Elliott. Dez Bryant. A supposedly impenetrable offensive line. The Cowboys haven’t lost since the Giants beat them in Week 1. As it sits right now, the Giants trail Dallas by two games in the NFC East.

The Cowboys face the Minnesota Vikings Thursday night. A loss by Dallas Thursday raises the possibility that, should the Giants beat the Steelers, first place could be on the line in that Monday Night Football encounter.

Week 15: vs. Detroit Lions (7-4)

These Lions aren’t the lovable losers you remember. These Lions lead the NFC North, and quarterback Matthew Stafford is probably playing the best football of his life. After dispatching the Vikings on Thanksgiving Day, the Lions have won three straight. Aside from the fact that the Lions are good, this game is sandwiched in between games against the arch-rival Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.

Week 16: at Philadelphia Eagles (5-6)

Monday night’s loss to the Green Bay Packers means the Eagles have lost six of eight after a 3-0 start. With each passing week, they look less like real playoff contenders and more like the NFC East bottom-feeder most — including yours truly — expected them to be when the season began.

Even if the downward trend continues for the Eagles, that doesn’t mean they won’t be a dangerous opponent for the Giants in this spot. They will be home, the fan base will be pumped up and even if they aren’t playing for a spot in the playoffs you know they would love to put a dent in or extinguish altogether the Giants’ playoff hopes.

Week 17: at Washington Redskins (6-4-1)

The Giants would be well-advised to take care of business over the next four weeks and clinch a playoff spot before heading to FedEx Field to finish the regular season against the Redskins. Seriously, do you have confidence that the Giants could go on the road needing a Week 17 victory to get into the playoffs and get one against this Washington team? Maybe they can, but I certainly wouldn’t feel good about their chances.

Have you watched the Redskins the last two times they faced, and defeated, the Giants? Did you watch them Thursday in their narrow 31-26 loss to the Cowboys? This team is no joke. Not that long ago, Washington was looked at as a guaranteed “W” on the Giants’ schedule. Not any more.

Here is a tidbit from Peter King on Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins:

Since he won the Washington starting job to open the 2015 season, Cousins is second among all NFL quarterbacks in accuracy (69.18 percent passing), fourth in passing yards (7,706) and fourth in passer rating (101.5).

There is also this to consider from King:

Dallas is the best team in the NFC, but the potential five or six seed with the best shot of running the table in the postseason looks like explosive Washington.

Let’s hope the Giants don’t absolutely need a victory in this one.

Final thoughts

Our good friends at SB Nation’s Pride of Detroit, which covers the Detroit Lions, have done some work that I wish I could claim as my own. The folks at POD have figured out the remaining strength of schedule for each of the top 12 teams in the NFC, and put that all into a handy-dandy little table that includes the remaining schedule for each team. Since we’re family, and all is fair in blogging/journalism/fighting for a playoff spot, I am unabashedly stealing POD’s table for your viewing pleasure.

Strength of schedule Opponents
Seahawks 0.315 vs. CAR, @GB, vs. LA, vs. ARI, at SF
Falcons 0.400 vs. KC, @LA, vs. SF, @ CAR, vs. NO
Washington 0.426 .@ARI, @PHI, vs. CAR, @CHI, vs. NYG
Vikings 0.426 vs. DAL, @JAX, vs. IND, @GB, vs. CHI
Packers 0.508 .@PHI, vs. HOU, vs. SEA, @CHI, vs. MIN, @DET
Buccaneers 0.527 .@SD, vs. NO, @DAL, @NO, vs. CAR
Cardinals 0.527 vs. WAS, @MIA, vs. NO, @SEA, @LA
Lions 0.537 .@NO, vs. CHI, @NYG, @DAL, vs. GB
Saints 0.545 vs. DET, @TB, @ARI, vs. TB, @ATL
Eagles 0.569 vs. GB, @CIN, vs. WAS, @BAL, vs. NYG, vs. DAL
Cowboys 0.593 .@MIN, @NYG, vs. TB, vs. DET, @PHI
Giants 0.630 .@PIT, vs. DAL, vs. DET, @PHI, @WAS

Not only does the Giants’ remaining schedule seem difficult when you go through it game-by-game, it is difficult. REALLY difficult. It is, in fact, the second-most difficult of any NFC playoff contender. Only the Cowboys’ schedule is more difficult, which could give the Giants’ hope in the division race.

Significantly, though, for the Giants, we see that the Redskins, Vikings, Packers and Buccaneers — all chasing a wild-card spot — have schedules that are among the easiest. That isn’t good for the Giants.

The Vikings, because they own a head-to-head victory over the Giants and the teams don’t play again, are the team that probably poses the most obvious threat. They are also the team from which overly confident Giants’ fans could probably take the biggest lesson.

Remember when the Vikings were 5-0, Sam Bradford was being hailed as a savior and many had the Vikings headed to Super Bowl 51? Well, Minnesota has lost five of six, that mega-trade for Bradford isn’t looking like such a hot idea any more and whether or not the Vikings can get straightened out and win enough games to threaten the Giants is anyone’s guess. If they can, they have a Week 17 home game against the Bears that looks a whole lot less daunting than a Week 17 road game against the Redskins.

All of this isn’t meant to say the Giants won’t make the playoffs. They have won six straight and put themselves in position, and have done so while showing that tremendous room for improvement remains on offense and special teams.

It is simply meant to say that the work of reaching the playoffs isn’t over for the Giants. It is, in fact, just beginning.