*Giants players discuss their 2016 playoff berth and prep for Week 17 vs. Washington: *
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Eli Manning today was still enjoying the gift he received from his hometown NFL team on Christmas Eve.
When the New Orleans Saints defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 31-24, on Saturday, the Giants clinched their first postseason berth since 2011.
"Obviously, it was exciting when the Saints won and (we) knew that we were in the playoffs," Manning said on a conference call today. "That was a good moment, that we were in. Got to enjoy the weekend, made the weekend a little bit better knowing that we were in the playoffs and enjoyed the holidays and Christmas with family."
The 10-5 Giants will enter the playoffs seeded fifth in the NFC and will play a wild card game at Green Bay, Detroit, Seattle or Atlanta on Jan. 7 or 8. They must first conclude their regular season, which they will do on the road against NFC East rival Washington Sunday at 4:25 p.m.
While the Giants are justifiably proud to be in the playoffs, they're not interested in accepting participation trophies.
"It's not about just getting into the playoffs," Manning said. "The mindset is to come back to work this week and finish the regular season strong and feel like we have a good thing going into the playoffs."
The Giants had an opportunity to secure a berth last Thursday in Philadelphia, but lost to the Eagles, 24-19. That forced them to wait two days until Tampa Bay lost before they knew they'd be postseason participants.
"We wish we could have handled it ourselves on Thursday night," linebacker and defensive captain Jonathan Casillas said on his call with the media. "That would have been definitely a less suspenseful weekend for me, but it is what it is. That is how the tide works. The NFL is a tough league and playing a game like that against a rival, in Philly, in a hostile environment and it was a crazy night that night, as in Philly fans were out strong. It was a good game, a hard-fought game, and we couldn't overcome the early surge from them and that is how it works sometimes in the NFL."
Both Manning and Casillas were asked whether they expected coach Ben McAdoo to play or rest his key players in Washington. Since the players haven't seen McAdoo since Saturday – and the coach hasn't commented publicly since the Giants entered the playoffs – those queries were premature. And it's doubtful McAdoo will publicly go into great detail regarding his intentions prior to the game.
Manning responded exactly as you'd expect him to.
"My take is to play," he said. "I think to go in there, play well and try to find a good rhythm offensively going against a team in the division, a team you know well and they know us. I think that's the mindset. Until I'm told differently, that's how I'm taking it."
Moments later, he said, "We want to do whatever coach thinks is best. Again, I think I'm looking forward to having a great week of preparation and go out there and play a game and continue to work and see. I feel like we've been close offensively, just keep making strides and go play another game and try to get a win."
Casillas, who has played on Super Bowl-winning teams in New Orleans and New England, said the rotation on his side of the ball will be beneficial heading into Week 17 and beyond.
"The good thing about our defense is that there is really not too many guys that don't come off the field, besides maybe Landon Collins," he said. "Everybody else, I wouldn't call them situational, but we are all role players. There is really not one guy, besides Landon, that stays on the field, so everybody has a chance, the backups have chances to play and start games in different packages. So whatever McAdoo decides to do, I am sure that it will be a good plan for us, and we are going to trust his thoughts and his opinions and his process."
The Giants will reconvene tomorrow. For now, they'll appreciate being a playoff team.
"It's not easy to make the playoffs," said Manning, who will be a postseason participant for the sixth time in his 13 seasons. "You see that with how many teams are still are on the bubble this weekend, good teams. It's a great tribute to way the way we've played this season and found ways to wins football games. Just excited about the opportunity to be in the playoffs and have a chance to win a championship."