EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants will play their final game of the 2019 season on Sunday. They would like to force the Philadelphia Eagles to do the same.
But that will not be their overriding goal when the teams meet for the second time in four weeks, this time in MetLife Stadium. Yes, with a victory, they can contribute to their longtime rivals missing the playoffs. An Eagles loss combined with a Dallas win against Washington will hand the NFC East title to the Cowboys. Philadelphia can secure that crown simply by defeating the Giants.
Despite those weighty stakes, the Giants' focus in the game will not be how it affects the Eagles, but in playing well and ending the season with a three-game winning streak. They turned in their most impressive offensive performance of the season yesterday in a 41-35 overtime victory in Washington. Victories against the Miami Dolphins and the Redskins have improved the Giants' record to 4-11. They will match last year's record by beating Philadelphia.
"This is our last game, and I assure you they're going to put everything into making sure this last game goes the right way," coach Pat Shurmur said today. "We'll see what happens."
Of course, many Giants fans have different priorities. Their motivation for Sunday is to see their team eliminate the despised Eagles from postseason consideration.
"I understand that," Shurmur said. "The internal messaging is we have to do everything in our power to win a game. That's the internal messaging. But we're well-aware of what the external messaging is. We're going to do what we can to put a winning performance on the field."
He has already delivered that message to the players. Saquon Barkley, one of the stars of yesterday's victory, was asked if he senses some fans will place greater importance on this game because of what's at stake for the opponent.
"Let's just go with, we want to finish the season off strong," said Barkley, who gained a franchise-record 279 yards from scrimmage, including 189 rushing, against Washington. "That's something that we're focused on, finishing the season off strong. We have one more game to do it in front of the home crowd. That's our mindset is to try to finish the season strong."
Just in case saying it three times in that answer wasn't enough, when a follow-up question was about deriving greater satisfaction from ending the Eagles' season, Barkley said, "We're going to try to finish the season off strong. That's the mindset in the locker room, this team and that's what we want to do." And in response to follow-up No. 2, he said, "We just want to finish the season off strong. That's the mindset that we have. But, come on everyone knows…"
"Yeah, everyone knows that it would be… it's a big game," Barkley said. "It's going to be a big game because it's the last game for us, we want to go off on the right note. Obviously, it's a big game for them. I think they have to win to clinch in the playoffs. The last two times we've played them have been-hard fought games when they've found a way to come back and win when we got on top. We just got to learn from those things. I think it could be something big for us if we could finish off the season strong going into the offseason into next year."
A unique perspective from Week 16
The teams met just two weeks ago, when the Giants jumped out to a 17-3 lead but gained just 29 yards in a scoreless second half and lost in overtime, 23-17. Eli Manning was the Giants' quarterback. Daniel Jones, who threw for 352 yards and a team rookie-record five touchdowns yesterday, will start against the Eagles for the first time on Sunday.
But that won't be the only difference in the games.
"From a gameplan standpoint, you always change," Shurmur said. "You run different plays at certain times. But the blueprint for how you play offense and defense is pretty well set for the year. You have to play. You have rules, you have things you need to do so that when a new play does come up or a new defense comes up, you know where to go with the ball. That's always the challenge when you play a team the second time.
"I think what's important for us, we've got to focus on doing things the right way and winning the game. We try every week to win the game we're playing, and we're going to do the same this week."
*Barkley, on setting the franchise single-game yardage record: "That's something you set goals to do, you want to set records here. I've already been quoted saying I want to be legendary, I want to be great. I'm thankful to have that record. Even though my name is on that record, it took a lot of people to help me to do it."
Tiki Barber had held the record for 17 years. On Dec. 28, 2002, Barber totaled 276 yards (203 rushing, 73 receiving) in a victory against Philadelphia that clinched a playoff berth for the Giants. Soon after Barkley was drafted last year, he had dinner with Barber.
"I told him that I was going to break all of his records," Barkley said. "Not in a disrespectful way, but basically coming from a respectful way that it's my goal that I want to be great like you one day. He gave me a lot of advice, gave me a lot of motivation. You know, he's a great dude."
*Shurmur said linebacker Alec Ogletree, who was in uniform but couldn't play because of a back injury, and right tackle Mike Remmers (concussion) continue to be evaluated. "Aside from that, (any injuries are) just game soreness. We'll just see how they feel tomorrow."
*Tuesday is normally the players' day off, but they will be in tomorrow, which will be Wednesday in the work week. They will be off on Christmas Day and then have a normal Thursday through Sunday.