It’s all right there for the New York Giants.
Win and they are in the 2022-23 NFC playoffs. They can and will celebrate with fans at MetLife Stadium who will happily and vociferously the frustration caused by watching what was cumulatively the worst football in the league during the last five seasons.
Lose? They can still get in with the right combination of losses by other playoff hopefuls on Sunday.
Still, they open the possibility that what has seemed like a fait accompli since their Week 15 victory over the Washington Commanders could fall apart.
Win Sunday and they will feel like a team that really earned its way into the playoffs. Lose against the 4-10-1 Indianapolis Colts and even if they find a way into the playoffs the Giants will again be facing about how good they are, about whether or not they really are a playoff-worthy team.
Except for their blowout loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 14, the Giants have been competitive in every game. They have beaten some good teams.
Sunday, they show us if they really deserve to be a playoff team.
Giants coach Brian Daboll has consistently talked about being consistent from day to day and from week to week. Sticking to that script, Daboll has consistently refused to acknowledge that one week is any different or more important that any week in an NFL season.
Even this week Daboll won’t publicly acknowledge that Sunday’s game is bigger or more meaningful than any of the first 15 his team has played.
During a Monday conference call, questioner after questioner tried to get Daboll to say something about the significance of Sunday’s game or of being so close to a playoff berth in his first year of what is really supposed to be a rebuild of a long-struggling franchise. Daboll referred jokingly to the line of questions as “body blows,” and simply kept moving.
He said he would not directly address the game’s significance with the team.
“No, it’s our next game. I think everybody knows what you just said [that it’s a playoff-like game],” Daboll said. “But what we can control is, again, the same stuff we try to control each week – making sure we’re prepared, ready to go and go out there and put our best foot forward.”
Daboll was asked again if ‘win and in’ is really not something he would bring up this week.
“I think we just try to control our own destiny each week by trying to win a game,” he said. “The goal is always to try to go 1-0, and that’ll be no different this week.
“We’re all professionals. I think the best thing you can do is just control what you can control, which is the things you need to control this week. All the other things, there’s no real sense. Everybody knows what the game is this week. I think what’s the most important is, ‘How do we improve our blocking, our decision making, getting off blocks, our tackling, our units?’ Everything. All that stuff is really what matters, and that’s where our focus needs to be.”
What about whether or not he expected to be in this position as a rookie head coach taking over a team with five straight double-digit loss seasons?
“I think when you start out – this is our first year trying to implement our systems – and put together the best team we could possibly put together and go out there and do everything we can do each day to win that day. And if you do that and concentrate on those things, then hopefully the results will come,” Daboll said. “They don’t always come; I’ve said that before. We’ve seen that, obviously, this year. But focus on the things that are important, and hopefully you get the results that you’re working hard to get. And constantly monitor really everything – whether that’s scheme, decision-making, practice habits. You evaluate the film and correct the mistakes that you got to make. Those are the things that I focus on and that I think our coaches focus on. And that trickles down to the players focusing on the things that they can control.”
In building their program, is there a long-term benefit if the Giants are able to reach the playoffs?
“I don’t even think that far down the road,” Daboll said. “I just think, ‘Let’s get ready to play the Colts and do the things we need to do this week to put ourselves in good position.’”
After waiting more than 20 years for an opportunity to be a head coach what would it mean to Daboll to reach the playoffs in his first try?
“We’re not in it yet,” he said. “I’m not going to look too far down the road, and we’re going to try to beat the Colts. And that’s where I’m at with it.”
Like I said, great job by Daboll with the consistent stick and move, never getting hit with a question that caused him to say more than he wanted to say.
Still, there is no denying that Sunday’s game will be the biggest for the Giants at MetLife Stadium in a long, long time. Probably since the end of the 2011-12 season when the Giants beat the Dallas Cowboys on Jan. 1, 2012 to qualify for the playoffs and then beat the Atlanta Falcons at home the following week in the Wild Card round.
It is also a game that will tell us a lot about whether we should or should not consider the Giants a serious playoff team, or whether they would be just an interloper likely served up as first-round fodder for the serious playoff teams.
This is a game the Giants should win. That they have no excuse not to win.
The Colts are a woeful team playing for an interim high school coach who is probably not coming back and with a roster that could well get blown up at season’s end. They are offensively inept no matter whether Matt Ryan, Sam Ehlinger or Nick Foles is at quarterback, 31st in the league in scoring. If you watched any of Monday’s Colts-Los Angeles Chargers game you know how awful they are offensively — even though they somehow hung 36 points on the Minnesota Vikings two weeks ago. Indianapolis will also be traveling on a short week.
The Colts have nothing to play for, other than professional pride. The Giants have everything to play for. In front of what should be a raucous crowd thirsty for a celebration fans have waited a decade for.
If they are truly a playoff team, the Giants will show us on Sunday. They will win and give fans that celebration.