The New York Giants are supposedly in rebuild mode, a team thought to be largely bereft of talent and with many injuries to key players. Yes, they beat Tennessee, but the Titans aren’t the team they were last year. Sure, they beat Carolina, but the Panthers may be the worst team in the NFL. Okay, they beat Chicago, but the Bears are a bad team too. Yeah, they beat Green Bay, but Aaron Rodgers is getting old and he doesn’t have Davante Adams anymore.
Maybe all of that is true, and the Giants will be brought back down to Earth this Sunday against the very talented Baltimore Ravens. But even if that happens, you know what? The Giants are a playoff contender. Maybe you think otherwise as Jim Mora did:
And he got that question when his team was 4-6. The Giants are 4-1. It’s time to say it. The Giants should be thinking of the playoffs. The NFL and CBS think so - Sunday’s game against the Ravens on CBS is the one being televised to most of the country:
What is a reasonable expectation for the Giants’ final record?
Let’s look first at the Giants’ power ranking heading into Week 6 to get an idea of where they stand in the minds of the NFL:
The Giants are presently at No. 13 in power ranking, i.e., on the hairy edge of playoff-caliber teams. Given their performance to date, that does not seem unreasonable. It may even seem disrespectful, given that their four victories include wins over the No. 1 seeds in last year’s playoffs in the AFC (Tennessee) and NFC (Green Bay), both of whom are otherwise 3-1.
An objective guess at the Giants’ final record, devoid of any “homerism,” would be that the Giants will lose to every remaining opponent higher than they are in the power rankings and defeat every opponent lower than them in the rankings (although they are 2-1 against teams above them in the rankings):
- Opponents higher in power rankings (5): Philadelphia Eagles (No. 2) x 2, Baltimore Ravens (No. 5), Minnesota Vikings (No. 7), Dallas Cowboys (No. 10).
- Opponents lower in power rankings (7): Seattle Seahawks (No. 24), Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 25), Detroit Lions (No. 26), Indianapolis Colts (No. 28), Washington Commanders (No. 30) x2, Houston Texans (No. 31).
That would leave the Giants at 11-6. That final season record would have been unimaginable to fans, and professional analysts as well, before the start of the season. But all it would take would be for the Giants to defeat every team ranked lower than them the rest of the way - and those opponents are much lower than them, ranking from No. 24 to No. 30.
What are the Giants’ chances of making the playoffs?
The NFL did a study last year of the chances of teams to make the playoffs given their record at any point in the season for the new 17-game schedule:
At their current 4-1 record the Giants already have a 77% chance of reaching the playoffs by historical standards. If they are somehow able to defeat the Ravens on Sunday that chance increases to 85 percent, but even if they lose their chance drops only to 67%. For an 11-6 record projection based on losing to/beating opponents above/below them in the power rankings the playoff chances are greater than 99 percent.
Taking a more pessimistic view, assume that the Giants lose to every higher-ranked opponent from here on and only defeat the lower-ranked opponents they play at home (Detroit, Houston, Washington, Indianapolis). That would leave them at 8-9, still with a slight (11%) chance of a playoff game. Winning even one of those road games against lower-ranked opponents (Jacksonville, Seattle, or Washington) while holding serve against the lower-ranked teams at home would bring them to 9-8 and a 50 percent chance of reaching the playoffs.
And looking only a few days into the future, just defeating the Ravens on Sunday would increase the Giants’ playoff chances to 85 percent. Considering that the chart above does not take the quality of a specific team’s future opponents into account, it seems likely that a team that has more low-ranked than high-ranked opponents coming up would have a better than 85 percent chance for the playoffs. Think about that if Sunday’s game is up for grabs entering the fourth quarter.
A lot can happen between now and the end of the season, such as season-ending injuries to key players. From a talent standpoint, this year’s Giants team doesn’t necessarily seem better than last year’s roster, which collapsed once Daniel Jones was lost for the season. But the 2022 Giants have been decimated by serious injuries across the roster though not at starting quarterback, the depth at quarterback is better once Tyrod Taylor comes out of the concussion protocol, and somehow Joe Schoen has been able to pluck replacements off the shelf at Walmart that Brian Daboll and his coaching staff can mold into players who make winning plays down 17-3 against the Green Bay Packers.
Are the playoffs that much of a stretch to imagine?