As the team returns from an extended break following Thanksgiving in Dallas, the Giants.com crew looks at the road ahead and the final push for a playoff spot:
John Schmeelk: Welcome to the home stretch. The Giants have six games remaining on their schedule and sit in the sixth playoff spot in the NFC. Two teams are nipping at their heels. The Seahawks are one game behind the Giants at 6-5 and own the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Giants. Washington is the bigger threat, only a half-game behind the Giants at 7-5, with two games against Giants in the next three weeks.
The Giants control their own playoff destiny for when the postseason begins on Jan. 14. They should be getting healthier with important players such Evan Neal, Daniel Bellinger, Azeez Ojulari, Fabian Moureau, Jon Feliciano, and Josh Ezeudu inching closer to their returns to the field. But the quality of play they bring to the field on Sunday is even more important.
Can the Giants reclaim their mastery over the formula that helped them win games early in the season? Will they win the turnover battle in the final six games? Can Saquon Barkley recapture the big-play ability that helped him spearhead the Giants' offense the first half of the season. Can the defense get back to dominating on third downs and in the red zone? These things need to happen to earn a playoff spot. It will be a lot of fun seeing if they can do it.
Dan Salomone: This is Brian Daboll's first year as a head coach, but he has been around the league for two decades. So, he knows all about the momentum swings that happen during the course of a long NFL season, which got even longer last year with the advent of a 17th game. He even warned about it while the team racked up six wins in the first seven weeks. This is when good teams can buckle down and not let the pendulum knock them over.
"The whole season obviously is in front of you right now," coach Brian Daboll said upon returning from Dallas. "We have a long way to go. Obviously, the rest of December here and the early part of January. So, we have to focus on getting ready to play Washington, but you're sitting at 7-4. You put yourself in a position to play meaningful games in December, which is important. Last year (in Buffalo), I think we were 7-6 after 13 games. Look, anything can happen in this league. I've said it before, it's a humbling league. You can be on the top of the mountain one week and fall off the next week. The biggest thing for us is to remain consistent in the things that we try to do each week to give ourselves the best chance to win. Do they always work? No, but I think a consistent approach is the best approach."
Once again, the New York Giants are bringing back their classic blue uniforms from the '80s and '90s this Sunday as part of two Legacy Games presented by Quest.
Lance Medow: As the Giants gear up for their final six games of the season, four against the NFC East, there are two areas to keep close tabs on, which will likely dictate the outcome of those contests. In the past two games, they've struggled to get the run game going as Saquon Barkley has been held in check for a combined 61 yards on 26 carries (2.3 per carry). The task at hand won't get any easier as both the Commanders and Eagles showcase deep defensive fronts and Philadelphia just added Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh to bolster its ability to stop the run. One element in play is the lack of explosive plays on the ground. New York posted nine runs of 10+ yards in Week 7 at the Jaguars. Over the past four games combined, they have just 11 of that kind.
As a result of the limited run production, the Giants have only converted eight of their 24 third-down attempts (33%) and Daniel Jones has averaged nearly 40 pass attempts per contest. Part of that is a product of falling behind by multiple scores but that's still not an ideal combo, especially when you go up against strong pass rushes.
On the defensive side of the ball, a recent telling stat is in the red zone. Entering Week 11, the Giants posted the second-best mark in the league; but in the last two games, the Lions and Cowboys have combined for eight touchdowns in nine red zone possessions (89%). In terms of upcoming opponents, the Eagles are tied for fourth in red zone efficiency and the Vikings are 14th. It's no coincidence that the Giants have allowed an average of 29.5 points per game over the last two contests given the recent success of their opponents punching it in.
Matt Citak: With six games remaining, the Giants find themselves in a heated battle for a spot in the playoffs following their first two-game losing streak of the season. They currently sit in the second Wild Card position, a half-game over the Washington Commanders in the final spot and one game over the Seattle Seahawks, who own the tiebreaker over Big Blue. Unfortunately for the Giants, the schedule makers did them no favors with their slate of opponents in the final weeks of the season. Over the next six weeks, the Giants will take on the Commanders (7-5) twice, the Philadelphia Eagles (10-1) twice, the Minnesota Vikings (9-2) and the Indianapolis Colts (4-6-1). Other than the matchup with the Colts, the other five games are against current postseason teams.
There are numerous factors that will play a crucial role in deciding whether or not the Giants will succeed in making the playoffs for the first time since 2016. But based on their upcoming schedule, perhaps the most important thing for the team's playoff push will be the run defense. The Commanders rank eighth in the league in rushing attempts and have topped 150 yards on the ground each week during their three-game winning streak. The Eagles have one of the top rushing attacks in the NFL and are coming off an outstanding 363-yard rushing effort against the Packers on Sunday night. Although the Vikings haven't found the need to rely on the run game much this season, the offense contains the strong rushing duo of Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. Finally, the Colts make it no secret that they want to establish the run, led by one of the NFL's best - Jonathan Taylor - who appears to be back to his normal self the past few weeks.
During the two-game losing streak, the Giants allowed both opponents to rush for 160+ yards. On the season, the defense ranks 26th in rushing yards per game (138.9) and 30th in yards per carry (5.2). In order to make the playoffs, the Giants will likely need to win two or three of their remaining games. The run defense will need to step up big to give them a chance.
Check out the evolution of the New York Giants' uniforms through the years.
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