Sunday could be a glorious, fun day at MetLife Stadium.
The New York Giants are playing their most meaningful game in the building since the end of the 2011 season, when they beat the Dallas Cowboys Week 17 to win the NFC East and reach the playoffs, then routed the Atlanta Falcons on Wild Card Weekend to begin their run to a Super Bowl title.
The Giants have made the playoffs just once since then. They can clinch a playoff berth Sunday afternoon by defeating the down-trodden 4-10-1 Indianapolis Colts.
They are supposed to beat the Colts. DraftKings Sportsbook has the Giants as 5.5-point favorites (-245 on the moneyline). Indianapolis has lost eight of its last nine games. The Colts and inexperienced interim head coach Jeff Saturday managed to blow a 33-0 halftime lead to the Minnesota Vikings a couple of weeks ago, the biggest single-game regular-season collapse ever in the NFL.
All five Big Blue View writers who picked the game have the Giants winning it. As of Thursday afternoon, 98 percent of 346 analysts who had posted picks at Tallysight had chosen the Giants to win the game. ESPN used its Football Power Index to simulate the results for Weeks 17 and 18. FPI has the Giants shredding the Colts, 34-0.
FiveThirtyEight gives the Giants a 92 percent chance of making the playoffs. The Football Power Index puts the chance at 95.4 percent. Football Outsiders calculates a 91.4 percent chance the Giants will make the playoffs.
There are, though, no guarantees.
A loss to the Colts on Sunday and the Giants could still reach the playoffs if the right teams lose during the day. They could also go into Week 18 needing to beat the 12-3 Philadelphia Eagles or hope for help to reach the postseason.
So, as close as the playoffs are, as much as the Giants and their fans can taste them, there is work to be done.
Giants’ guard Mark Glowinski was part of an Indianapolis team last season that looked like a playoff shoo-in with two weeks left in the season, but lost its final two games to the Las Vegas Raiders and the 3-14 Jacksonville Jaguars.
“All I can do is refresh everybody, use all the time that I’ve had in the past for situations of wins and losses to remind guys that it’s here and right now,” Glowinski said this week. “We need to execute and make sure that we give everything we can.”
Glowinski said the Giants just have to handle their business.
“I think it’s just more of us not taking anybody lightly, making sure that you’re in the moment, making sure you’re executing, making sure that it goes back down to fundamentals and technique, making sure that you want it more,” he said. “Sometimes things slip between your fingers, and you wish you had them back, but new team, new game, let’s build off of it.”
Veteran safety Tony Jefferson was part of a 2017 Baltimore Ravens team that lost out on a playoff berth when the 7-9 Cincinnati Bengals beat them 31-27 in the final week of the season on a fourth-and-12 49-yard pass from Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd with just :44 remaining.
“There’s nothing really different you need to prepare for except that we’re going to get their best shot,” Jefferson said. “Nothing’s going to be given to us.”
Coach Brian Daboll has been loathe to talk about the playoffs all week.
“We’re not in it yet,” Daboll said early in the week.
Media members asked and asked throughout the week, trying to get the first-year coach to express even a hint of feelings about making the playoffs. He never bit.
“You got to do the things you need to do to win each game. I know there’s ‘What’s this? What’s this?’ The way I was raised in this business, in terms of getting ready to play games, doing the things you need to do each week, prepare the right way, practice the right way,” Daboll said. “I know it’s a boring answer, but that’s the truth. I don’t think you can get too far ahead of yourself in anything. Each game is important. And as you get going throughout the season, if you’re lucky enough to keep going, they’re one-game seasons then. So, our focus is on this game. And we’re going to have to do a good job.”
Daboll has preached consistency all year. That isn’t changing with Sunday’s ‘win and in’ scenario at hand.
“Same way we’ve been doing it all year: Just do the things we need to do to try to win a game and focus on that week. That’s what’s hard to do [in] this league,” Daboll said. “There’s a lot of other things going on, and I understand all the questions [about the playoffs]. But it is really, truly – live in that moment. Control the things that you can control. And each day, have a good day. And then ultimately, go out there on Sunday and play and coach a good game.”
Not reaching the playoffs would bring a disappointing end to what has otherwise been a promising turnaround season for the Giants in Year 1 of the Daboll-Joe Schoen regime.
“I think we are all aware of what’s at stake and what we can accomplish. You can’t get lost in that. You got to keep focus on the main thing,” said running back Saquon Barkley. “We got to get back to playing tight football, take care of the ball, take care of the little things and if you look throughout the course of the season when we do that, we put ourselves in position to win football games. That’s just the focus. Try what we can do to win this game. Everything else that’s at stake, if you take care of what you got to take care of – the rest will handle itself.”
Barkley and the Giants don’t want to leave their fate up to a Week 18 roll of the dice, especially facing a game in Philadelphia.
“You don’t want to leave it to chance. The way you do that is by doing what you got to do this week. That’s really it,” Barkley said. “You just got to treat it like another week. One game at a time, it’s the most important game because it’s the next game on the schedule and try to do the little things, take care of the football, and go out there and try to win the football game.”
Let’s see if the Giants can do what they are supposed to do Sunday afternoon. If they do, MetLife Stadium could be quite the party scene.
If they don’t? Well, do we really want to think about that?