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Fact or Fiction: Week 15 predictions; playoff push


The crew is presented with four statements and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.

The Lions are the biggest threat to the Giants and Commanders in the playoff hunt

John Schmeelk: Fact - The Seahawks are going in the wrong direction (lost three of their last four) with four tough games remaining on their schedule against the 49ers, Chiefs, Jets and Rams. The Lions, on the other hand, have won five of six games with their only loss coming against the Bills on Thanksgiving. They have games remaining on the road against the Jets and Panthers, a home game against the Bears, and a season-closing game on the road at Green Bay. The Lions are a dangerous team that can score with an improved defense, and even though they are one game behind the Seahawks, they are the bigger threat the to knock the Giants or Commanders out of the playoffs.

Lance Medow: Fact - The Lions are playing their best football right now as they've won five of their last six games. Detroit has showcased one of the best offenses in the league for the bulk of the season, but now the defense is clicking, which has made Dan Campbell's group much more balanced and dangerous. The Lions have allowed 23 points or less in four of the last six games after surrendering 24 or more during their previous five-game skid. The Lions beat the Giants and Commanders this season. Although a tiebreaker head-to-head scenario is unlikely given New York and Washington played to a tie two weeks ago, those Detroit victories help in terms of records against common opponents and conference foes.

Matt Citak: Fact – This is no knock on the Seahawks, who have surprised many with their success this season. Seattle still has a chance, but between losses in three of their last four games, along with their remaining schedule (vs. 49ers, at Chiefs, vs. Jets and vs. Rams), it might be tough for them to sneak in. While they're trending down, the Lions are very much trending up. Detroit has won five of their last six games, and after this weekend's matchup against the 7-6 Jets, their three remaining opponents are all under .500 (at Panthers, vs. Bears and at Packers). Dan Campbell has his team fighting till the very end of every game, and it would be foolish to count them out until all is said and done.

WR Isaiah Hodgins will score a touchdown for the third consecutive game

John Schmeelk: Fiction – Just run the odds here. The Giants don't score a lot of touchdowns and the chance that Hodgins is the recipient of a touchdown once again is small. There's also a chance Benjamin St. Juste is back this week, which will be a tougher matchup for him.

Lance Medow: Fiction - The Commanders rank eighth in the NFL against the pass and allowed Daniel Jones to throw for just 200 yards and one touchdown in the first meeting. Washington may be getting back one of its top two corners in Benjamin St.-Juste, who missed Week 13 with an ankle injury as well as pass rusher Chase Young, who could bolster the pass rush even if he's on a pitch count. The presence of St.-Juste is more meaningful in response to this statement because, at 6-3, he has the length to match up with Hodgins.

Matt Citak: Fact - Count Hodgins as another unheralded find by Joe Schoen and the front office. Over the last four games, Hodgins has caught at least three passes, but the young receiver has seen his production increase over the last two games. In Weeks 13-14, Hodgins has totaled nine receptions for 82 yards and two touchdowns, with the scores being the only ones thrown by Daniel Jones in that span. The Commanders have a strong pass defense, but Hodgins has a decent chance of finding the end zone yet again.

View photos from the all-time series between the New York Giants and the Washington Commanders.

OLB Azeez Ojulari will have a sack for the third consecutive week

John Schmeelk: Fact - When these two teams played against one another on Dec 4, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale did a great job using pre-snap looks to create either free runners or individual matchups against tight ends and guards for Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux. You would expect that to happen again, and you would favor Ojulari against right tackle Cornelius Lucas. Ojulari has fresh legs and he has been fast and explosive coming off the edge.

Lance Medow: Fact - Azeez Ojulari hasn't shown any signs of rust as he's recorded three sacks in two games since coming off IR. The Giants have collected nine sacks in the last two contests, including five against Washington, to enhance the pass rush. This bodes well for his chances to do more in the rematch.

Matt Citak: Fact – Let's go a step further and say that both Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux will have a sack on Sunday night. Ojulari has looked dominant in his limited action this season with four sacks in less than four full games. Meanwhile, Thibodeaux has improved as the season has gone on, and the rookie outside linebacker seems to be at his best when Ojulari is lined up opposite him. The two have combined for four sacks and 18 pressures over the last two weeks, and they'll keep it going against Washington.

Rookie OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux is the Giants' X-factor for the final four games in the playoff push

John Schmeelk: Fiction - This has to be a player in the secondary. Pick one. It can be Adoree' Jackson coming back from injury. It can be Fabian Moureau or Nick McCloud as the second outside cornerback. It could be Julian Love as the Giants' primary safety, or Xavier McKinney if he comes back. The Giants are going to be challenged through the air the last few weeks of the season with the likes to Justin Jefferson, Terry McLaurin, and the Eagles with AJ Brown and Devonta Smith on the schedule. You can argue the run defense is just as important, but the last four quarterbacks the Giants have faced have completed 65% of their passes – this number needs to go down If the Giants want to go to the playoffs.

Lance Medow: Fiction - The one area that has been an issue for the Giants in recent weeks is their run defense. In the five games they've lost or tied in the last six weeks, New York has allowed 11 rushing touchdowns and that's directly connected to a dip in red zone defense as opponents have found the end zone 14 times in 18 opportunities (78%). So no one player is the X-factor. Stopping the run requires several pieces, including Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, Micah McFadden and Jaylon Smith. One of those players could apply to the label but you can't characterize or single out anyone as a savior.

Matt Citak: Fiction – Let's go with an X-factor on the offense and the easy choice is Saquon Barkley. After his torrid start, Barkley has cooled off over the past month, totaling just 152 yards on the ground in his last four games. Barkley and the Giants' run game helped lead the team to its 6-1 start, and the offense is going to need its star running back playing like his normal, dominant self for this final playoff push. Following this weekend's game, none of the Giants' final three opponents pose challenging threats with their run defense. If Barkley can get going again, it would go a long way in helping the Giants secure their first playoff berth since 2016.


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