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NFL Playoff Preview: New York Giants

© Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Can the Giants great defense propel them to another magical run in the postseason from the Wild Card?

It’s playoff time in the NFL, where neutral fans watch and laugh as the fans of teams participating in the playoffs tear their hair out over every play. The NFC’s fifth seed is the 11-5 New York Giants, who finished second in the NFC East. Can the Giants recapture the magic of their two recent Super Bowl runs?

Key Players

Offense: QB Eli Manning, WR Odell Beckham Jr.

Eli Manning has led the Giants to two Super Bowl victories in his long and storied tenure with Big Blue. Manning has had a decent season, throwing for more than 4,000 yards, and adding 26 touchdowns through the air. His interception numbers have been a little high, averaging one per game, and he has the fourth-highest interception total in the NFL. Manning has proven he is capable of leading a team to the promised land multiple times, and the Giants are going to need more great playoff performances from Eli if they want to compete.

Odell Beckham Jr. has established himself as one of the best receivers in the NFL, finishing third in receiving yards this season and getting into the endzone 10 times. OBJ consistently makes highlight reel catches, but his importance to the Giants’ offense extends far beyond his ability to make it onto SportsCenter. Beckham has the ability to take over a game and dominate, as he did in the Giants’ Week 6 win against Baltimore, when he had 222 yards and two touchdowns. Beckham doesn’t necessarily need to have 200 yards every game to give the Giants a chance, but he needs to perform in a way that proves he is one of the best receivers in the NFL

Defense: SS Landon Collins, DE Olivier Vernon

Landon Collins, in only his second season in the NFL, has been nothing short of outstanding for the Giants’ defense this season. With 125 tackles, five interceptions, and four sacks (as a safety!), Collins’ statistical contributions to the Giants’ defense have been phenomenal. But beyond his numbers, his importance to the Big Blue defense is very evident: all five of his interceptions and all four of his sacks came in Giants’ wins, and in the five games the Giants lost, Collins had low production across the board. Collins needs to play at the All-Pro level in the playoffs for the Giants to have a chance at doing anything in the postseason.

When both healthy, Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon dominated offensive lines the world over. With JPP (likely) out for at least the first round of the playoffs, Vernon has to bear the brunt of the attention in the pass rush. In the five games before JPP was injured, Vernon recorded seven sacks. In the four games after JPP’s injury, Vernon has recorded just 0.5 sacks. Vernon needs to step up big time for the Giants to have a shot against the potent offenses of the NFC

Best Win and Worst Loss

Best Win: 20-19 and 10-7 over Dallas Cowboys (Weeks 1 and 15)

The Cowboys are the #1 seed in the NFC, and finished with only three losses. Two of their losses were against the Giants, who severely limited the Cowboys’ explosive offense. Eli Manning had four touchdowns in those two games compared to only one for Dak Prescott, and Ezekiel Elliot was held to an average of less than 100 yards per game across those two games. Seeing as the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through Dallas, these are two great wins for the Giants to have under their belts.

Worst Loss: 24-14 to the Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 14)

This game did not go well for the Giants from start to finish. It began with tackle Ereck Flowers taking a holding penalty in the endzone, giving the Steelers a safety. It continued with a poor performance from Eli Manning, with two interceptions and fewer than 200 yards. The run game fared even worse, with Paul Perkins and Rashad Jennings combining for a measly 57 yards. Eli threw a touchdown near the end of the game to bring the Giants within 10, but the Steelers handled the Giants a lot more than the score would indicate. 

Previous Matchups With Playoff Teams

Week 1: 20-19 win at (1) Dallas Cowboys

Week 5: 23-16 loss at (4) Green Bay Packers

Week 14: 24-24 loss at (3) Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 15: 10-7 win vs (1) Dallas Cowboys

Week 16: 17-6 win vs (6) Detriot Lions

Positives: Two wins over the number one seed in the NFC, and the Giants are the only team to beat the Cowboys before they clinched home field advantage and rested Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot. 

Negatives: The Week 5 loss on the road in Green Bay does not bode well for the Giants, who have their Wild Card Round matchup on the road in Green Bay. 

Performance Leading Up To The Postseason

The Giants won three of their final four games of the season, with their only loss in that stretch coming on the road against their division rival the Philadelphia Eagles. During these last four games, the Giants beat two playoff teams (the Cowboys and the Lions), and beat a Washington team that had everything to play for in Week 17. However, Eli Manning’s performance in those games is a little bit concerning, with a 4:4 touchdown to interception ratio. 

Level of Contender: Moderate

The Giants have a brutal matchup in their Wild Card Round, facing a Green Bay team that has won six games in a row behind a red-hot Aaron Rodgers. The Giants also lost Week 5 in the very building they will play their first round matchup in. But this is not to say they cannot beat the Packers, because the Giants have a great defense. Despite the Packers’ win in Week 5, Aaron Rodgers did struggle with the pressure he faced, and threw two interceptions against the Giants’ stingy secondary. 

If the Giants get past the Packers, they could have a matchup waiting with the Dallas Cowboys, who they’ve defeated twice this season. We have seen the Giants make great runs from the Wild Card Round to Super Bowl Champions twice in Eli Manning’s career, and while he has more offensive deficiencies this time around, the Giants’ outstanding defense could be the springboard for another run to the title this season. Don’t count out the Giants, but don’t rush off to Vegas to bet on them.

Edited by Emily Berman, Coleman Gray.

In how many seasons has Eli Manning led the NFL in interceptions (as of 2016/17)?
Created 1/4/17
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