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Giants Clinch First Playoff Berth in Five Years

(Photo via Giants.com)

(Photo via Giants.com)

Five years. It has been five years since the Giants were last in the playoffs. The last time they were in the playoffs, the Giants became Super Bowl 46 Champions. The Giants did not make a return to the postseason in five years. That changed on Saturday, as they clinched a playoff spot.

After losing on an opportunity to clinch on Thursday Night Football against the rival Philadelphia Eagles, the Giants had to leave their playoff hopes in the hands of four other teams. The Giants needed either the Green Bay Packers (9-6), Atlanta Falcons (10-5), or Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7) to lose on Saturday in order to earn a wildcard spot. It didn’t look like a great start on Christmas Eve for Giants fans, as the Packers defeated the Minnesota Vikings (7-8) 38-25 and the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Carolina Panthers (6-9) 33-16. That left the Giants’ fan base to become big New Orleans Saints fans, rooting for the Saints to defeat the Buccaneers.

The Giants and their fans got their wish, as the Saints (7-8) defeated the Buccaneers 31-24 to secure an NFC Wildcard spot. Five years felt like an eternity for the Giants’, now they have the opportunity to make this run special.

“That was a good moment, that we were in,” said Giants QB Eli Manning. “Got to enjoy the weekend, made the weekend a little bit better knowing that we were in the playoffs…It’s not about just getting into the playoffs. The mindset is to come back to work this week and finish the regular season strong and feel like we have a good thing going into the playoffs.”

Manning has had a roller coaster season at quarterback this season. There were games where it looked Manning was in the zone, finding the open receiver for three-plus touchdowns and throwing for over 300 yards. But there are also games where Manning looks dreadful. Throws that should not be made turning into interceptions, not being able to hit the receiver, the constant dink and dunk plays on third and long. The inconsistency of Manning and the offense does serve as a crutch for the Giants, but they have past experiences to look back on.

Manning has made a name for himself as a clutch playoff quarterback, leading in most fourth quarter comebacks among active quarterbacks (30), and making ridiculous clutch plays that made NFL fans everywhere make their jaws drop. In eleven playoff games, Manning is 219/356 with a 61.52% completion rate for 2,516 yards, 17 touchdowns, and eight interceptions, and has an overall playoff record of 8-3. Giants will be looking for this Eli Manning to make his presence felt in this current playoff run.

“I think you’ve got to play good football in the playoffs,” said Manning. “You’re going to be going against good teams. You’ve got to play smart and you’ve just got to make the plays that are there. We have that capability of scoring points and moving the ball and converting on third downs and doing all the right things offensively. We’re just going to have to make the plays on game day.”

The Giants’ defense continues to get praise each and every week, and it is well deserved. Despite their showing in Philadelphia on Thursday night, the defense looks to be the true juggernaut amongst all of the teams who have clinched a playoff spot. The Giants defense has allowed 18.3 points per game (3rd in NFL), 274 total points allowed (4th in NFL), 343.4 yards per game (11th in NFL), 15 interceptions (tied for 7th in NFL), and 1069 total tackles (3rd in NFL). As the saying goes, “stats don’t lie.” The Giants are proof of that. With contributors such as Landon Collins, Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Olivier Vernon, and the eventual return of Jason Pierre-Paul, the defense will look to make their presence felt on the NFC side of the playoff bracket.

“I think that we have been going in the right direction,” said Giants linebacker Jonathan Casillas. “There has been a lot of good, a little bad there, but a lot to learn from and we have been a collective group that has gotten better and has progressed throughout the season and I am looking forward to doing the same…finishing up the regular season and then propelling us to the playoffs and I am very excited where this defense is going.”

There is one question that is going around in the media and throughout collections of Giants fans.

Will the Giants rest their starters with their playoff spot already clinched? NFL fans know the risks of playing starters who already have a playoff spot locked in, especially this weekend. Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr broke his fibula bone when playing this weekend against the Indianapolis Colts, leaving him out of action for six to eight weeks and putting the Raiders (12-3) in a tough spot heading into the playoffs. Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota fractured his fibula in an all-important game against the Jacksonville Jaguars to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Titans (8-7) did lose the game, but also lost Mariota for four to five months. The Seattle Seahawks (9-5-1) also took a hit on the offensive side of the ball, as they lost wide receiver Tyler Lockett for the remainder of the season to a broken tibia and fibula.

Week 16 showed the physical toll a 17 week season has on its players. It just so happened that these three injuries left three teams with playoff hopes with big voids to fill. That is the fear amongst Giants fans. With the injuries of Jason Pierre-Paul, Janoris Jenkins, and Shane Vereen so far this season, fans do not want any significant injuries to occur in Week 17 against the Washington Redskins.

However, the Giants are going to treat this game as any other game and plan to play all of their starters, in order to warm up everyone for the first round of the playoffs.

“That’s for the coach to think about,” said Manning. “As a player, you don’t think about injuries and you know that’s a part of the game and you go out there and you play tough and you play your regular game and you can’t be worried about that.”

“Well, the good thing about our defense is that there is really not too many guys that don’t come off the field,” said Casillas. “…but we are all role players. There is not really not one guy, besides Landon, that stays on the field, so everybody has a chance, the backups have chances to play and start games in different packages. So whatever McAdoo decides to do, I am sure that it will be a good plan for us and we are going to trust his thoughts and his opinions and his process.”

Let’s not let the negativity overshadow the shining moment that is the Giants’ playoff berth. For the first time in five years, Giants fans are happy and excited the Giants are back in the playoffs. With the way the defense has played this season and with the potential of the offense, the Giants and their fans are looking forward at a deep playoff run.

“It’s a great tribute to the way we’ve played this season and found ways to win football games,” said Manning. “Just excited about the opportunity to be in the playoffs and have a chance to win a championship.”

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