EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants aren't going to playoffs, but they can still stage a memorable final act in their 2019 season.
They will host the Philadelphia Eagles tomorrow with a chance to end a season with a three-game winning streak for the first time since 2002, while simultaneously ending a six-game losing streak in a rivalry that began 86 years ago. The Giants can continue an offensive surge that has seen them score 77 points the last two weeks in victories against Miami and Washington, their highest two-game total in four years. Daniel Jones, the team's quarterback of the present and future, can further his development against an NFC East team he has yet to face, and the many other young players on their roster can gain more experience. It is perhaps the last time Eli Manning will wear a Giants uniform.
And as an added bonus, the Giants can help end Philadelphia's season. If the 8-7 Eagles stretch their winning-streak to four games, they will capture the division title. But if the Giants defeat them and Dallas beats Washington, the Cowboys will be the champions and the Eagles will watch the playoffs at home.
But the Giants have insisted all week that determining Philadelphia's fate does not motivate them.
"No one cares about that," running back Saquon Barkley said. "We just want to focus on ourselves and finish off the season strong. At the end of the day, we don't want anyone in the NFC East to make the playoffs besides ourselves, so someone's got to go besides us. It doesn't matter to us if we win and Eagles don't get in, that means the Cowboys would go. Or if we lose, that means the Eagles go. So, at the end of the day, someone from the NFC East is going besides us, which we don't want any of them going, to be honest."
"I think our mindset is to go out and win our last game," coach Pat Shurmur said. "We know that this is our last game, and we're trying to do what we can to go out and win it. What happens beyond that, after that, we'll just see what happens."
Jones chose to exclude the Eagles from his response when asked if the Giants had "extra incentive" knowing they could force Philadelphia to join them as postseason spectators.
"Any division game like this, the last game of the season, we have a chance to end it on a high note," Jones said. "Yeah, it's a big game for a lot of reasons, but an opportunity for us to finish strong and put a few wins together here at the end of the season. So, we're excited and I think we're looking forward to getting out there Sunday."
If the Giants have any Philadelphia-induced motivation, it originates from their last two meetings. Just 19 days ago in Lincoln Financial Field, Manning and the Giants raced out to a 17-3 halftime lead. But the offense stalled in the second half and the Eagles scored 20 unanswered points, including Zach Ertz's game-winning touchdown in overtime, to win 23-17.
The Giants' visit to Philly last year followed the same script. They jumped out to leads of 12-0 in the second quarter and 19-11 at halftime but were outscored by 11 points in the final two quarters and lost, 25-22.
"The last two times we played them, we were up on them and then they came," Barkley said. "But those last two games mean nothing to this game right here. There's going to be different ways the games play out, we've just got to be ready to execute when we can. If we do find a way to get up on them early like we have in the recent past, find a way to finish it, and if we don't, find a way to fight and come back and get the win."
Jones is 2-1 in division games, including last week's 41-35 overtime victory in Washington. But this will be his first game against the Eagles. He was sidelined on Dec. 9 with a sprained ankle. After studying them, his conclusions match those of anyone who has played Philadelphia.
"They've got a good front," Jones said. "A couple guys, really the whole front, they are experienced guys, guys who can make plays. Then, guys in the back end, too, who are physical and make a lot of plays. So, they are a good defense. But I thought in the first game, we played well, we did a lot of good things. We'll hopefully be able to do a lot of those things again and improve on them."
If they do, the Giants will end the season with three consecutive victories and they might force the Eagles to also begin their offseason on Monday. They're just not concerned about the back half of that sentence.
"I think it's important for us, it's our last game," Shurmur said. "We're one of 20 teams where this is going to be your last game. Unfortunately, we're not one of the 12 (playoff teams), yet. What you want to try to do is win that game for your fans to be able to enjoy a victory to end the year. I think that's important, and I think that's what we all fight for. Then we all have the personal reasons for why we coach and play this game, because we're all hyper competitive and we all want to do what we can to enjoy the thrill of victory."
Tomorrow, they will have their final opportunity to do that in 2019.
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