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Notebook: What's next for Giants after clinching


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Now that the Giants have ascended to the postseason peak, Brian Daboll isn't going to stand around and admire the view.

"I'll be looking at Philly," Daboll said.

Philly, as in the Philadelphia Eagles, the NFC East rival the Giants will face in their regular-season finale Sunday in Lincoln Financial Field.

The Giants are locked into the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs. The Eagles have been on top of the conference all season but must win Sunday to secure the division title and the conference's top seed and only first-round bye. If they lose and Dallas defeats Washington, the Cowboys will be NFC East champions.

Philadelphia defeated the Giants in the teams' first meeting in MetLife Stadium, 48-22. But the Eagles also beat the Commanders and Cowboys when they first played them this season and lost both rematches. With so much at stake, the Eagles will treat the upcoming game as the most important of the season.

What about the Giants? Even a satisfying revenge victory will do nothing to improve their playoff position. Should they rest and/or reduce the snaps of some of their most important players, like Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley and Dexter Lawrence?

"I'd say we'll talk about it and do what's best for the team," Daboll said. "So, it's early Monday. We'll go out there and try to have a good week of practice, prepare like we normally do and decide what we want to do relative to who's playing, who's not playing. Whatever we think is best for our team, that's what we'll end up doing.

"(General manager) Joe (Schoen) and I will have some conversations, talk to the coaches. I don't think we need to make that decision right now. So again, we'll do whatever we think is best for our guys and our team come this week."

Teams in the Giants' situation traditionally confront the play them/rest them conundrum. Each roster has only 53 players, so you can't rest everyone. To many in the NFL, it is abhorrent to consider a game meaningless. But if it keeps players healthy for the playoffs…

"It's only right if it works, right?" Daboll said. "So, if you do one thing and it doesn't work, you do the other thing and something happens, you're wrong no matter what. You just got to make a good decision based on information and the things you talk about with the people on your staff and make the decision that you think if right for your team. So, if you go out there and lay an egg, it's the wrong decision. If you win, it's the right decision. So, that doesn't affect it either way."

The Giants have a famous historical precedent in this situation. In 2007, they clinched the fifth playoff seed with a victory in Buffalo in their penultimate game. Their next opponents were the New England Patriots, who hoped to become the first NFL team to finish 16-0. Coach Tom Coughlin was adamant the Giants would do everything possible to win the game, despite the risk of exposing players in a situation where they couldn't change their seed. The inspired Giants led by 12 points in the third quarter before falling, 38-35.

But the Giants learned they could compete against the powerful Patriots. And as all fans know, they spoiled the Patriots' perfect season five weeks later in Super Bowl XLII, 17-14.

The 10-6 Giants opened that playoff run against at Tampa Bay against a Buccaneers team that won the NFC South with a 9-7 record and had lost three of its last four games. The Giants played without two starters – center Shaun O'Hara and cornerback Sam Madison – who had been injured against New England. Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden had rested several key starters, including quarterback Jeff Garcia, in their regular-season finale. The Giants cruised to a 24-14 victory.

"I think every situation is different," Daboll said. "That's a pretty unique circumstance that year – the record that the Patriots had (16-0). And every year's different. So, what happened in 2007 doesn't really have any effect on what's happening in 2023 for the decisions that we need to make. We'll do what we think is best for the team and sit down and have conversations. By the end of the week, we'll have our plan dialed in. But again, I think every situation, every season (is different). Would they have done that if a team was 10-6? Who knows? I don't really know the answer to that. So, I think we got to focus on what we need to do here in 2023."

And first up are the Philadelphia Eagles.

View photos from the Giants' Week 17 game against the Indianapolis Colts.

*Perhaps no play yesterday signified the Colts had no chance to rally and the Giants' inclusion in the playoffs was secure than Landon Collins' 52-yard interception return with 1:45 remaining in the second quarter. The Giants' third touchdown in less than nine minutes ballooned their lead to 21-3 and left only the final margin in doubt.

It was Collins' second career pick-six; he also had one against the Rams in London in 2016. He insisted this one wasn't more significant because it was in a playoff clincher.

"Honestly, it's just more making a play for our team and just making sure we're set," he said. "That was the biggest thing and just making sure for the next play. Just turn the page, and even though I made a pick, now let's just finish it because that team can still come back if anything happens. So, at the end of the day, I just finished this, made a play, on to the next thing now."

Collins raced up the sideline like a sprinter in a track meet.

"Honestly, I'm trained like that," he said. "I've been running fast all my life. I'm a speedster even though people don't think I am. I got a lot of speed within my legs."

*Safety Xavier McKinney played 48 defensive snaps in his return after missing seven games with fractured fingers on his left hand. His 83% participation rate was topped only by safety Julian Love and cornerback Fabian Moreau (each with 55 snaps).

"It's a big relief, man. I'm just happy to be back," McKinney said. "I think, at times, this game is taken for granted. You never know when it might be your last snap. You never really know. So, for me, I'm just happy that I'm able to be back out here with the guys. I'm just happy about life because a lot of things could've gone wrong: It could've been more than just a broken hand. I'm just happy that I'm still here and still with the guys and out there with them."

McKinney returned to practice Thursday and was added to the roster Saturday.

"I thought I was going to be able to come back," he said. "I just didn't know when. Obviously, some of my dates were a little earlier than others. But I definitely thought I could do it."

McKinney's hand passed every test.

"It got banged," he said. "That's a part of the game. But it's all good. Sometimes, I was actually doing it on purpose to see, 'Alright, let me see how much I can take of it.' But everything was fine. I had no problems with it."


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