The Giants know exactly what’s at stake in their final regular season game. Win against the Dallas Cowboys, and there’s a shot at the NFC East title if the Washington Football Team loses to the Philadelphia Eagles. Lose against the Cowboys, though, and nothing else matters except what NFL Draft pick you get come April.
That’s why head coach Joe Judge won’t be thinking about any “hypothetical games” this week while preparing for the division rival. Yes, the Giants are sniffing the playoffs for the first time since 2016 when they were a Wild Card team. But they still need external things out of their control to happen in order for those dreams to be fulfilled.
Judge will focus on what he can control, and that’s getting prepared to face the Cowboys.
“Our focus is still to remain on the Cowboys,” he told the media on Monday. “That’s the priority this week. Our main focus is improving as a team. We have a division rival coming up ahead. It’s a big game for us. Obviously, there’s implications. As I’ve said all along, those games right now don’t exist. So, until I can talk about any kind of opponent coming up beyond who we’re playing, there’s not a conversation to be had.”
Judge did say, however, that he had the Cowboys-Eagles game on during the train ride back to New York from Baltimore. With the Giants losing, the only way their division hopes stayed alive were if the Football Team and the Eagles both lost. That’s exactly what happened.
“Being on the train, actually we had the game streaming in the background and I sat in – we kinda had a little conference room – the front car that I was in, and me and [defensive coordinator] Pat Graham sat down and went through the defense tape together and watched like we do,” Judge explained. “We did the same thing coming back from Washington and talk some ball. And we were kinda checking scores throughout the league with a lot of games to go and that’s kinda normal custom right there. I’ve always been checking scores around the league. Last night was no different. Obviously there were some division games going on that we’re conscious of and we checked those and streamed those at the end of the games.”
While Judge didn’t know his players’ reactions to the results of those games, Blake Martinez is one of those players that has been to the playoffs – or at least played those coveted meaning December games that co-owner John Mara wanted to see from his team this season. And with it truly coming down to the last one of the season, he loves the opportunity to go out and capture a win and let destiny figure out the rest.
“You always want to have meaningful December games,” Martinez said. “...To be able to have that, every competitor, especially in the NFL, wants to have that opportunity.”
That said, there are many that simply can’t stand an NFC East team making the playoffs this season because of how bad their records will be when it’s all over. The Giants would potentially make it at 6-10. For teams that have much better records and miss the playoffs, it can’t be a fun sight to see.
But Martinez has an answer for those people.
“I don’t think the record’s the biggest thing to look at,” he said. “I think you look at team as they progress through the season, how they’re improving, the style of play they play with. Once you get into the playoffs, it really becomes 0-0.”
He has a point. When the playoffs begins, the regular season standings don’t matter. It’s win or go home.
So consider this week against the Cowboys a mini playoff game for Big Blue. It’s either win and hope Washington lose…or go home.