The Giants have surprised the NFL at every turn this season. They won games no one expected them to win. They came from behind in games they looked like they lost. And then, just when it seemed like they ruined their season with a 1-4-1 slide, they went down to Washington, beat the Commanders, and salvaged their playoff chances.
That leaves them with only one more thing to do.
Just one win in their final three games will all-but lock the upstart Giants (8-5-1) into their first playoff berth since 2016. In fact, they can officially do it on Saturday (1 p.m. ET on FOX) with a win in Minnesota, coupled with two losses amongst the Commanders, Lions and Seahawks. It would complete a shocking turnaround in the first year of the Brian Daboll era. It would almost be enough to put the stench of the Dave Gettleman Era in the distant past.
That would certainly qualify as a success, right?
“I don’t know if we’d say that,” said Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. “It’s certainly a goal for us to make playoffs, but we’re confident in our ability as a team, and we believe we’re a good team.”
“The goal is to make it to the playoffs,” added running back Saquon Barkley. “But it’s not like you won the Super Bowl.”
First things first. Making the playoffs would be a huge deal for a franchise that has made them once in the last 10 years. And they’d be getting there at least a year before anyone expected them to, before new GM Joe Schoen has even had a chance to begin his rebuilding project. It has the potential to accelerate his timeline, to change everything about the Giants’ future.
But first, there’s the matter of getting that one more win (at least).
Could it come on Saturday in Minnesota against the 11-3 Vikings? It might seem like a long shot, but the Giants keep reminding everyone to never count them out.
Here’s a look inside the matchup of these two (likely) playoff-bound teams:
What’s at stake for the Vikings: They are in the playoffs and they do, theoretically, have a shot to catch the Eagles for the top seed in the NFC. But since that would require a 3-0 finish while the Eagles lose their last three, that’s not realistic. More important to them will be locking up the No. 2 seed and a first-round game against the last wild-card team in. Currently, the Vikings only lead both the 49ers and Cowboys by a game and they don’t currently win a tie-breaker against either one. So every win down the stretch might count.
What’s at stake for the Giants: Their chances to make the playoffs may sit at 87 percent (according to FiveThirtyEight.com), but the Giants know they’re not home yet. They are probably safe, with a two-game lead (including the tie-breaker) over Washington (7-6-1) and a 1.5 lead over the Seahawks and Lions (both (7-7), but they still need to find at least one win in their final three games to lock it up. If they can steal this one, they might clinch it. At the very least, it would allow them to breathe easy on their New Year’s Day trip to Indianapolis where the pressure to be on to beat a beatable Colts team before they wrap up the season at home against the Eagles.
Key matchup: Vikings WR Justin Jefferson vs. Giants CBs Nick McCloud, Fabian Moreau and Darnay Holmes: Talk about a mismatch. Even Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale seemed to understand that when he told his players: “He’s one of the top two receivers in this league — and he’s not No. 2.” The Giants have a bad secondary to begin with, but it’s gotten worse with the injury that has kept Adoree’ Jackson out the past four games, and will likely keep him out on Saturday afternoon. Their pass rush has improved, with 12 sacks in the last three games, but that’s not likely to help against Jefferson who leads the NFL with 111 catches and 1,623 yards. He’s had nine games with 100 or more yards. In the last two weeks he had 23 catches for 346 yards and a touchdown. And this might be his easiest matchup yet.
Key stat: It took the woeful Colts to snap the Vikings’ string of giving up 300 or more passing yards in five straight games. They have the second-worst passing defense in the NFL, giving up 278.8 yards per game. So maybe there’s some hope for Giants QB Daniel Jones? Don’t count on it. He’s averaging 192.4 passing yards per game and he’s topped 230 passing yards in a game just once this season. There will be openings in this Vikings’ secondary, but with his bad receiving corps it’s hard to see them capitalizing on it.
Prediction: The Colts showed all the vulnerabilities in the Vikings defense in the first half last week, before they remembered they were the Colts and blew their 33-0 lead. A team with a better offense could go to school on what they did, though. But the Giants are not that team. They are so weighed down with offensive issues, from drop-happy receivers to Saquon Barkley’s slump, that it’s asking them too much to go into Minnesota and outscore the Vikings. Justin Jefferson by himself might be too much for the Giants, and that’s before they get to running back Dalvin Cook. The Giants are a gutty team and they might keep this game close. But in the end, close won’t be enough.
Vikings 24, Giants 18
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Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.
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