'TRY TO GO 1-0'
With two games remaining, the Giants are in full control of their playoff destiny. A win in either of their final two contests would clinch the No. 6 seed in the NFC. If they go 0-2, they will need some help in order to secure the franchise's first playoff berth since 2016. The Giants face the Colts at home this weekend before traveling to Philadelphia for the season finale against the Eagles. Here are all of the ways the Giants can clinch this week:
- NYG win OR
- NYG tie + SEA loss or tie + WAS loss or tie OR
- NYG tie + SEA loss or tie + DET loss or tie OR
- NYG tie + WAS loss or tie + DET loss or tie + GB loss or tie OR
- SEA loss + WAS loss OR
- SEA loss + DET loss + GB loss or tie OR
- WAS loss + DET loss + GB loss
The playoffs might be sitting right there for the Giants' taking, but that hasn't changed coach Brian Daboll's approach. His message to the team this week is the same as it has been every week – focus on the upcoming opponent and let everything else fall into place.
"I think we just try to control our own destiny each week by trying to win a game. The goal is always to try to go 1-0, and that'll be no different this week..." Daboll told the media Monday. "I think the best thing you can do is just control what you can control, which is the things you need to control this week. All the other things, there's no real sense. Everybody knows what the game is this week. I think what's the most important is, 'How do we improve our blocking, our decision making, getting off blocks, our tackling, our units?' Everything. All that stuff is really what matters, and that's where our focus needs to be."
Coincidentally, the last time the Giants secured a spot in the playoffs in front of the home crowd came exactly 11 years to the day from this Sunday's game. On January 1, 2012, the Giants defeated the Cowboys, 31-14, at MetLife Stadium in a winner-take-all showdown for the NFC East title.
"They've been outstanding," Daboll said about the fans. "I'm very thankful for all the support that our organization gets, the following. We work extremely hard each week to put a good product on the field, and one of the reasons is for our fanbase. So, to play at home in late December in an important game, it's important to us. I know it's important to them. And we'll do everything we can do to be ready to go."
Sunday's game will be the 20th all-time meeting between the Giants and Colts, with Indianapolis holding a 12-7 lead in the series. The Colts have won each of the last four games between the two teams. In their last meeting back in 2018, Andrew Luck threw a touchdown pass to Chester Rogers in the final minute of the game to give the Colts a 28-27 win.
Doubtful: CB Adoree' Jackson (knee)
Questionable: OLB Azeez Ojulari (ankle)
Out: WR Ashton Dulin (concussion),TE Kylen Granson (ankle), CB Kenny Moore II (ankle)
DJ, SAQUON STEPPING UP
The Giants came up just short against the Vikings last weekend, but the offense put up one of its best performances of the season with 445 yard of total offense. Daniel Jones completed a career-high 30 passes and finished with a 71.4 completion percentage. He topped 250 passing yards in the air for just the second time this season as he finished with 334 to go with one touchdown and one interception. Jones has a 13-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio on the season, while his interception rate of 1.1 percent is the lowest in the league. The 25-year-old quarterback added 34 yards on four carries (8.5 avg.) against the Vikings.
Saquon Barkley also enjoyed his second consecutive strong outing. The star running back totaled 84 yards on just 14 carries, with his 6.0 yards per carry being his highest average per rush attempt since the season opener. Barkley caught a season-high eight passes, tied for the most on the team, for 49 yards.
Similar to the Sunday night win over the Commanders, Barkley saved his best for when the moment mattered most. With the offense facing a 4th-and-2 with just over two minutes remaining, the fifth-year back broke loose for a 27-yard touchdown to bring the Giants within two points.
"Saquon's done a good job for us all year," Daboll said on Monday. "He runs hard. I think he makes good decisions with the ball and where to run it, and he's a talented player. So, he's one of our better players. So, good players have to play well, particularly in the fourth quarter of close games."
The Colts' defense has had an up-and-down season. They enter the final two games ranking 25th in points and 11th in yards allowed. Their pass defense has shined at times, with the unit coming in at No. 11 in both passing yards and touchdowns allowed. However, their run defense has given up 122.2 yards per game (No. 20) and 18 touchdowns (No. 27).
HODGINS 'WORKS EXTREMELY HARD'
The Giants have seen several of the team's in-season roster additions make key contributions. Perhaps the most impactful player added on the offensive side of the ball has been Isaiah Hodgins. The second-year wide receiver made his Giants debut in the Week 10 win over the Houston Texans. He caught both of his targets for 41 yards in that game and has not looked back.
Hodgins has a touchdown reception in three of the last four games with at least four catches in every contest. In fact, the 24-year-old is coming off the best game of his young professional career. Hodgins reeled in eight passes for 89 yards against the Vikings, both of which set new career-highs, along with his third touchdown of the season. He is up to 29 receptions for 309 yards and the three scores in seven games with the Giants. Considering the injuries the Giants have had at the wide receiver position since training camp, Hodgins has developed into one of the team's most reliable pass-catchers.
"I think he's smart, tough, dependable," Daboll said about Hodgins. "He works extremely hard. In between periods, he's usually throwing there with Daniel on a variety of routes, or they're talking about things that we've installed and make sure that he sees it through the eyes of a quarterback. So, he's done a good job for us since he's been here."
"All of those guys who have come in have done a really good job," Jones added about the team's current group of wide receivers. "They're all guys who work really hard, who understand what we're trying to do and can do it and are willing to put in the work to get on the same page to build the chemistry and do what we need them to do. Whoever it is that's stepped up I think has done a great job and they deserve a lot of credit."
Leading the way in the Colts' secondary is Stephon Gilmore. The 11-year veteran is still one of the top shutdown corners in the NFL, with two interceptions, 11 passes defensed and a career-high 63 total tackles through 15 games. Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams, who typically lines up outside where Gilmore plays, caught four passes for 76 yards Monday night.
SMITH AND THE NEW ILB GROUP
Jaylon Smith was signed to the practice squad on Sept. 20 and elevated to the active roster 11 days later. The veteran linebacker made his 2022 debut against the Bears in Week 4 and hasn't looked back. Smith has started 10 games for the Giants this season, including each of the last nine, and has stepped up his game in recent weeks. Since Week 12, the 27-year-old has registered at least nine total tackles in four of the last five games while playing 74 percent of the defensive snaps in four of the five. Smith is coming off his best game of the season, matching his season-high of 10 tackles (seven solo) and picking up his first sack of the year.
"Jaylon's playing well," defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. "He's a first- [and] second-down linebacker for us. He's playing well. Today we're going to give him a vet day. I think the wear and tear of the season is catching up with him a little bit; but you see it, we're going to play who we think is best, get them in there and go."
The Giants have made some changes to the inside linebacker group in recent weeks. Following Landon Collins' third elevation from the practice squad for the rematch against the Commanders, he was signed to the active roster last week ahead of the game in Minnesota. The veteran responded with his first sack and pass breakup of the season.
In addition to Collins, the Giants signed linebacker Jarrad Davis off the Detroit Lions practice squad on Wednesday. The veteran has played five of his six seasons with the Lions, along with one year with the Jets (2021). Davis, who turned 28 last month, has played in 67 regular season games (50 starts). His career totals include 327 tackles (217 solo), 10.5 sacks, 23 quarterback hits, seven forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, 10 passes defensed and one interception.
McKINNEY PRACTICES; AZEEZ, ADOREE' UPDATES
The schedule might say Week 17, but the Giants are about as healthy as they've been this season. On Thursday, they got some more positive news as it was announced that Xavier McKinney had been designated to return to practice. The third-year safety practiced today for the first time since he fractured fingers on his left hand during the bye week in early November, an injury that led to surgery for the 23-year-old.
McKinney's return to the field would certainly provide the defense with a big boost. However, coach Brian Daboll would not commit to the young safety definitely being able to play in a game this season. The Giants have 21 days to either add him to the active roster or keep him on reserve.
"I'd say that yesterday was kind of the first step of getting him back out there," Daboll said Friday. "I thought he moved around well. Conditioning, I thought, was good. Obviously, hasn't played a game in a while. I'd probably say probably not this week, but he looked good up there."
"They said they wanted me back the first week I was out, but obviously I couldn't do anything about that," McKinney told the media Thursday. "They've communicated with me and told me that they're trying to get me back out there, asking if I can play. I'm telling them I can play, but like I said it's up to the trainers, the docs. I know that they're going to make the best choice and best decision but I'm trying to get back out there."
The Giants only have two players listed on the final injury report with actual ailments, as Dexter Lawrence received a veteran rest day on Wednesday but was back in full Thursday and Friday. Defensive lineman Leonard Williams continued to be limited with the same neck injury he's been dealing with the past few weeks, but was not given an injury designation for Sunday.
Meanwhile for the third consecutive day, cornerback Adoree' Jackson and outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari were limited participants in practice. Jackson has been out with a knee injury since Week 11, with Wednesday being his first day back at practice. Ojulari suffered an ankle injury against the Vikings last weekend. Daboll told the media Friday that both Williams and Ojulari are "good to go" while they will take it up until kickoff before making a decision on Jackson, who is listed as doubtful.
"We're taking it day by day still," Jackson told the media Thursday. "Just going out there, doing all the precautions, doing it right by the book and by the plan. Not trying to rush it. Every day, every week it's getting better."
LG SPLIT 'HAS BENEFITED BOTH OF THOSE GUYS'
Ben Bredeson returned to the field for the Week 15 contest in Washington. Over the last two games, Bredeson and Nick Gates have split time at left guard. The former played 42 snaps (67 percent) against the Commanders while Gates was on the field for 21 (33 percent). The rotation was more of an even split this past weekend, with Gates playing one snap more than Bredeson. Both linemen have played well over the past two outings, with offensive coordinator Mike Kafka noting how the split has been advantageous for both guys.
"Yeah, I think it keeps both of those guys fresh," said Kafka. "They do a great job, really, throughout the week of practice too of communicating. Make sure they see the looks and talking about the looks. The rotation, I think, has benefited both of those guys…
"Every week is different, it doesn't say we may or may not do this week and it's something we talk about with Dabs and (offensive line coach) Bobby (Johnson) and how we want to roll those guys. It worked last week, and I think they did a nice job with it and kind of getting into the flow of the game. We'll continue to evaluate this week."
DON'T SLEEP ON FOLES
Nick Foles' debut with the Colts did not go as planned. The veteran quarterback completed just 58.6 percent of his passes (17 of 29) for 143 yards with three interceptions, finishing with a passer rating of 31.9. However, Foles has enjoyed plenty of success over his 11-year career, including a Super Bowl MVP award, a trip to the Pro Bowl and a 3-0 record against the Giants. Martindale knows the Giants cannot overlook the 33-year-old QB just because of his struggles on Monday night.
"I think it's just respecting the game and respecting what he's done," the defensive coordinator said about Foles. "They just don't give out Super Bowl MVP trophies. And he has one of those, and he's got a Pro Bowl and things like that. You can tell he has a live arm, and they're trying to push the ball down the field with him. (I've) been in it long enough that I've gone against him when he was at Philly and those other places."
The Chargers presented Martindale with the blueprint to containing the Foles-led Indy offense – pressure the veteran signal-caller early and often. Blitzing the quarterback is nothing new to Martindale, who has garnered the reputation as being one of the most blitz-happy defensive coordinators in the NFL. The Giants were able to get to the Vikings' Kirk Cousins throughout the game on Saturday, recording four sacks and 11 quarterback hits. Heading into Week 17, Martindale's unit is tied for third in the league with 140 total pressures on a league-high 227 blitzes, according to Pro Football Reference.
Foles was sacked seven times by the Chargers last week, which brought the Colts' total up to 56 sacks allowed on the season (one behind Denver's league high). Martindale smiled, explaining a part of last week's sack total was likely due to Foles shaking off the rust in his first start.
"What's going through my mind is that at that time, that's the first game he's played in a while," he said. "So, it's going to do nothing but get better for him, seeing things, going at a faster pace of it. But there's definitely blood in the water."
SCOUTING REST OF COLTS OFFENSE
The Colts have some talented pass-catchers in the offense, starting with Michael Pittman. The third-year receiver leads the team with 90 receptions for 854 yards on a whopping 128 targets. Parris Campbell has succeeded as the unit's No. 2 receiver, catching 54 passes for 529 yards and three touchdowns, while rookie Alec Pierce has reeled in 35 passes for 536 yards and two scores. Tight ends Jelani Woods and Mo Alie-Cox also provide the Giants with some tough matchups, as both are former basketball players with tremendous athleticism.
"It's going to be a challenge because he's got plenty of weapons to work with," Martindale said. "He's got two NBA players playing tight end (Alie-Cox and Woods), and he's got a bunch of receivers with huge catch radius – anything that's close to them, they catch. So, it's going to be a great challenge for us."
With Jonathan Taylor on injured reserve, the keys to the Indy backfield have been handed to Zack Moss. Over the last two weeks with Taylor out, Moss has carried the ball a total of 36 times for 146 yards, good for an average of 4.1 yards per carry. The Colts' seven rushing touchdowns on the season are tied for 29th.