NFC East Reporter
The Giants have surprised the NFL at every turn this season. They won games that no one expected them to win. They came from behind in games that seemed lost. And then, just when it looked like they’d ruined their 1-4-1 season, they went down to Washington, beat the Commanders, and salvaged their playoff chances.
That leaves them with just one more thing to do.
Just one win in their final three games, however, will lock the upstart Giants (8-5-1) into their first playoff spot since 2016. In fact, they can make it official Saturday (1 p.m. ET on FOX) with a win in Minnesota, along with two losses between the Commanders, Lions and Seahawks. It would complete a shocking turnaround in the first year of the Brian Daboll era. It would almost be enough to put the stink of the Dave Gettleman era in the distant past.
It would definitely be a hit, right?
“I don’t know if we would say that,” Giants quarterback Daniel Jones said. “It’s definitely a goal for us to make the playoffs, but we’re confident in our ability as a team and we think we’re a good team.”
“The goal is to make the playoffs,” running back Saquon Barkley added. “But it’s not like he won the Super Bowl.”
The first is the first. Making the playoffs would be a big deal for a franchise that has made the playoffs once in the last 10 years. And they would get there at least a year earlier than anyone expected them to, before new GM Joe Schoen had a chance to begin his rebuilding project. It has the potential to accelerate their timeline, to change everything about the Giants’ future.
But first, there’s the matter of getting one more win (at least).
Could he make it to Minnesota against the 11-3 Vikings on Saturday? It may seem a bit far-fetched, but the Giants continue to remind everyone to never count them out.
Here’s a look at the matchup between these two (likely) playoff-bound teams:
What’s at stake for the Vikings?: They’re in the playoffs and theoretically have a chance to catch the Eagles for the top seed in the NFC. But since that would require a 3-0 finish while the Eagles lose their last three, that’s unrealistic. Most important for them will be locking up the No. 2 seed and a first-round game against the last wild-card team. The Vikings currently only lead both the 49ers and Cowboys by one game and are currently winless. tiebreaker against either. So every win down the stretch can count.
What’s at stake for the Giants: Their playoff chances may sit at 87 percent (according to FiveThirtyEight.com), but the Giants know they’re not home yet. They’re probably safe, with a two-game lead (including the tiebreaker) over Washington (7-6-1) and a 1.5 lead over the Seahawks and Lions (both (7-7), but they still have to find at least one win in their last three games to lock it up. If they can steal this one, they could get it. At the very least, it would allow them to breathe easy on their New Year’s Day trip to Indianapolis, where the pressure to you’ll beat a winning Colts team before ending the season at home against the Eagles.
Key matchup: Vikings WR Justin Jefferson vs. Giants CB Nick McCloud, Fabian Moreau i Darnay Holmes: Talk about a mismatch. Even Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale seemed to understand when he told his players, “He’s one of the two best receivers in this league, and he’s not No. 2.” The Giants have a bad secondary to begin with, but it’s gotten worse with the injury that has kept Adoree’ Jackson out the past four games, and will likely keep him out Saturday afternoon. His pass rush has improved, with 12 sacks in the last three games, but that likely won’t help against Jefferson, who leads the NFL with 111 catches and 1,623 yards. He has had nine games with 100 or more yards. In the last two weeks he had 23 catches for 346 yards and a touchdown. And this might be their easiest matchup yet.
Key statistic: The woeful Colts took a while to snap the Vikings’ streak of giving up 300 or more yards passing in five straight games. They have the second-worst pass defense in the NFL, giving up 278.8 yards per game. So maybe there’s hope for Giants QB Daniel Jones? Don’t count on it. He is averaging 192.4 yards per game and has topped 230 yards in a game just once this season. There will be openings in this Vikings secondary, but with their poor receiving corps it’s hard to see them taking advantage of it.
prediction: The Colts showed all the vulnerabilities of the Vikings defense in the first half last week, before remembering they were the Colts and blowing their 33-0 lead. A team with a better attack could go to school with what they did, though. But the Giants are not that team. They’re so loaded with offensive issues, from pass-happy receivers to Saquon Barkley’s slump, that it’s asking too much for them to go to Minnesota and get past the Vikings. Justin Jefferson by himself might be too much for the Giants, and that’s before they get running back Dalvin Cook. The Giants are a scrappy team and could keep this game close. But in the end, closing will not be enough.
Vikings 24, Giants 18
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Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him on Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.
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