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Mailbag: Aggressive play-calling; personnel usage

MAILBAG

Luke in New York, Do you think Joe Judge's decision to be aggressive on fourth downs in the red zone against the Browns was a sign of him having faith in his defense to keep the score low? Or do you think he was aggressive because he knew the Browns were going to put up points, and thought the team needed touchdowns instead of field goals to win?

John Schmeelk: Judge said in his postgame video conference: Field goals were not going to beat the Browns. When the Giants got into the deep red zone or the 10-yard line, they needed to come away with touchdowns. There is no way to know how many red zone trips the team was going to have given Daniel Jones' absence at quarterback. Judge certainly believes in his defense, but regardless of how good a defense is they are going to give up some points to a team as good as the Browns, especially with players like Darnay Holmes and James Bradberry injured. His decisions were rooted in the fact he knew his team would have to score touchdowns and surpass 20 points to win the game.

Anthony in Colorado: Last year Kaden Smith and Daniel Jones seemed to click. This year, they do not seem to use Smith as much in the passing game, Why?

John Schmeelk: For one, Evan Engram is healthy this year. Smith didn't have a catch last year until Engram got hurt on Nov. 4. Engram is a more talented receiver and better athlete than Smith, making him a more important target in the passing game. Smith still has a very significant role on the team. He has played at least 30 snaps in every game this season and has been an effective cog in the running game. He has also been used as an extra protector in passing situations.

Thomas in New York: Is the NFC East still winnable?

John Schmeelk: It is, but the Giants are going to need some help and take care of their own business. Washington has a one-game lead in the division and the Giants have to make up that game with only two remaining. Washington still has to host the Carolina Panthers and visit the Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants visit the Ravens and host the Cowboys to close out the season. If Washington loses one, the Giants must win their final two games. If Washington loses their final two games, the Giants only need one win. Whether Washington QB Alex Smith is able to play in the final two games could be vital in the division race. The Giants would also be well-advised to beat Dallas, who can still hold a head-to-head tiebreaker against them.

Any three-way tie in the division would be broken by the overall record for each team in games between the three tied teams. For example, if Washington, Dallas and the Giants finished in a three-way tie, the team with the best record against the other two opponents would win the division. As of now, the Giants are 2-1 in those matchups, Washington is 2-2, and Dallas is 1-2. The second tie breaker would be division record. The Giants and Washington are 3-2 in the NFC East, and Dallas is 1-3. Once the third team is eliminated in these steps, it reverts back to traditional two-team tiebreaker procedures, starting with head-to-head.

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