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Giants at Redskins, Week 17 prediction: Giants, with bigger fish to fry, fall in finale

Valentine’s View: Washington is the more desperate team, and that will be the difference

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Predicting the outcome of Sunday’s New York Giants at Washington Redskins regular-season finale. Despite coach Ben McAdoo’s proclamations during the week that Giants’ starters will ”play to win the ball game” you have to wonder about that.

The 10-5 Giants have already clinched a playoff spot, and nothing they do on Sunday is going to move them out of the No. 5 seed or impact who they end up playing in the first round of the NFC playoffs.

Giants’ players have all said they want to play against the Redskins and that the game is an important momentum-builder for the playoffs. Star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. might have been the only Giant who really told the truth about the difficulty of focusing on Sunday’s game.

“It’s hard to not look past this game knowing what’s at stake and the position that we are in,” Beckham said during the week. “You can’t move up and you can’t move down. It is very difficult to not look past that and look forward to next week.”

Of course the Giants will want to win the game. No athlete ever wants to lose. You wonder, though, will Beckham and other receivers sell out to make plays across the middle or play it safe? Will the Giants have the resolve to fight for extra yards or bring the physicality needed to make crucial defensive stops?

A handful of plays often make the difference in NFL games, and quite often it is the desperate team, the team with more on the line, that makes those plays. In this case, that is the Redskins. They need a victory to have a shot at reaching the playoffs, so you would expect Washington to be the team that plays with a real sense of urgency.

That has to be what oddsmakers, who list the Giants 7.5-point underdogs, are expecting.

Former Giant Geoff Schwartz looked at both sides of the start/sit issue in a recent post for SB Nation. In the case of the Giants, Schwartz recommended rest for Week 17:

“For the Giants, their offense finally showed some explosiveness last weekend, so I would understand if they choose to play their starters a few drives to try continuing those good vibes. Also, I would start Eli to continue his starting streak — 198 consecutive regular-season starts — the most impressive stat no one talks about. But only for a series. Then take out Eli, Odell Beckham Jr., center Weston Richburg, and guard Justin Pugh. On defense, they are elite and beat up. Don’t even dress those guys.”

As I have said all week, regardless of what McAdoo has said I believe the Giants will substitute liberally and that few star players will play more than half the game.

That’s the prudent approach for the Giants, win or lose. In terms of predicting Sunday’s outcome, I will take the desperate team over the one that already has its mind on bigger things.

Prediction: Redskins 24, Giants 17