EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – No one on the current roster has waited longer to play his first postseason game in a Giants uniform than Saquon Barkley.
This is the two-time Pro Bowler's fifth season with the team and on Sunday he will play in his first game with direct playoff implications. When the Giants played their final game in 2020 with a chance to win the NFC East title, it was more than three months after Barkley suffered a season-ending knee injury in Chicago. But if the 8-6-1 Giants defeat the Indianapolis Colts in MetLife Stadium, they will secure the sixth seed in the NFC postseason bracket.
"It would mean a lot," Barkley said this week. "It's stuff you dream about as a kid, playing playoff football in the National Football League. That's something that you dream about when you get drafted to the New York Giants. Obviously, the first four years that didn't happen and now there's a chance, a possibility. It's a beautiful thing when you look at it. All the ups and downs, whether it's in my personal career or whether it's the organization - what we've been through the last couple of years. It will be special, and we have a chance to do it. At the end of the day, we just got to take care of what we can take care of and that's on Sunday."
Like everyone on the team, Barkley is following coach Brian Daboll's lead and focusing only on the game, and not the prize they will receive if they walk off the field as winners. The Giants have not deviated from their all-games-are-important mantra, even though this one can deliver the franchise's first playoff berth in six years.
The Colts are 4-10-1, have lost five consecutive games and are near the bottom of the league's rankings in most significant offensive categories. Which means a whole lot of nothing to the Giants.
"I think we are all aware of what's at stake and what we can accomplish," Barkley said. "You can't get lost in that. You got to keep focus on the main thing and that's come out here. I know the record doesn't say it, but they've been playing really well. They have a really good defense over there. A lot of talented guys and we got to get back to playing tight football, take care of the ball, take care of the little things and if you look throughout the course of the season when we do that, we put ourselves in position to win football games. That's just the focus. Try what we can do to win this game. Everything else that's at stake, if you take care of what you got to take care of – the rest will handle itself."
Barkley, of course, has been one of the primary contributors as the Giants have risen to the cusp of the playoffs. He is fourth in the NFL with 1,254 rushing yards and sixth with 1,597 yards from scrimmage. Barkley's 10 touchdowns are twice as many as his nearest teammates (Daniel Jones).
Barkley has been a star since his first NFL game in 2018, when he totaled 128 scrimmage yards and scored on a 68-yard run. But the Giants lost that game to Jacksonville and endured double-digit defeats in each of his first four seasons. This season, the Giants jumped out to a 7-2 start and have been playoff contenders throughout.
Despite the tough times, Barkley insists he never wondered whether he'd be a part of a season like this.
"I think I've been vocal about saying that I want to be here when things turn around and I want to be helpful, and I want to be part of the reason why they turn around," he said. "I think that's the case. We got a new coaching staff, brought a new energy, brought some new players, kept a lot of players around and started off the season hot and put ourselves in a position to play meaningful football in December and January and a position to lock it in. That's what you want."
And that's what he finally has.
View photos of Giants running back Saquon Barkley's time with the New York Giants.
*Mark Glowinski has started every game at right guard in his first season with the Giants. In 2021, he played his fourth and final season for Indianapolis. The Colts needed to win just one of their final two games to make the playoffs, just as the Giants do now. But they lost at home to Las Vegas before suffering a 26-11 loss to a Jacksonville Jaguars team that hadn't won in two months and finished 3-14. The 9-8 Colts went home.
Glowinski insisted this week those Colts felt no more pressure that week than they had in any other game – and said the Giants don't now.
"I think it's just more of us not taking anybody lightly, making sure that you're in the moment, making sure you're executing, making sure that it goes back down to fundamentals and technique, making sure that you want it more," Glowinski said. "Sometimes things slip between your fingers, and you wish you had them back. But new team, new game, let's build off of it.
"All I can do is refresh everybody, use all the time that I've had in the past for situations of wins and losses to remind guys that it's here and right now. We need to execute and make sure that we give everything we can."
*Because of injuries, linebacker Azeez Ojulari has played in only six games. But he is second on the Giants with 5.5 sacks, just one sack behind team leader Dexter Lawrence.
"I think he made a conscious effort, and he worked really hard at it, to really improve his hand usage and his footwork, getting off the ball and his rush angles," outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins said. "He's just rushing at a really aggressive rate. You just see at the top of his rush how violent and how athletic he can be, and that causes a lot of problems for tackles. Even last week (in Minnesota), playing against a good tackle, that success that he had there. He just really put his mind to it, worked hard all offseason and works hard each week. He studies, tackles, really right down to the frame-by-frame, seeing how they punch and how they set. He just works. He's a really hardworking, conscientious (player). Every play matters so much to him. And you see that on the field."
*Ojulari, who hurt his ankle sacking Kirk Cousins last week, is questionable for the game Sunday against Indianapolis.
*The only other player on the Giants' final injury report is cornerback Adoree' Jackson, who is doubtful with a knee injury. Jackson has missed the last five games.