This past Saturday we rejoiced on Twitter when the Saints defeated the Bucs, sending the Gmen to their first playoff appearance since 2011. Since that time, over the past few days, the Giants beat writers and fans have been busy with a few myths that we have to dispel.
Myth #1- It took a Bucs loss for the Giants to back into the playoffs.
This one is ridiculous. At least the journalists did not fall for this line of thinking. You do not go 10-5 and back into the playoffs. The Giants have won 8 of the last 10 games, and until Eli Manning threw 17 interceptions vs the Eagles, the Giants were arguably the hottest team in the league. That is especially true after beating both Dallas and Detroit. The Giants had another game left to win it on their own merit. So for an 8-6 team to lose, there is absolutely no dishonor in how the Giants got in. They have played good football this year and their Defense is excellent. They got into the playoffs through the front door.
Myth #2- The Giants need to rest their starters to get ready for the postseason.
The argument on this one is much more controversial. The conventional wisdom is that a “Derek Carr” injury needs to be avoided, so it is stupid to take chances. This is why I blog, for moments like these when the truth is crystal clear.
As my first piece of evidence, I call to the witness stand: Week 17 from 2007. The Patriots were 15-0, the Giants were 10-5. Having just clinched in Buffalo the prior week, The Giants (and the Pats) did not need the win. What made headlines was that the Pats were playing for the perfect record. Giants fans will remember the game for what its team did- they played toe to toe with the best team in the NFL for 60 minutes. This NY Giants blogger remembers that Strahan was pissed after losing the game. I was genuinely excited. I saw how Eli Manning and the Giants played for ~3.5 quarters before losing. All 3 units played at a high level.
Some wins (like against Chicago and Cleveland this year) are not good. Some losses, when your team fights but comes up short to a strong team, are BETTER. The Giants were measured, and they realized they were very close. The Patriots would say after Super Bowl that the Giants were the best team they faced during the regular season.
The Giants proved to themselves that they could fight versus other playoff teams and get it done. It gave them CONFIDENCE. You get confidence by practicing and playing. You get confidence by executing. The NY Giants Offense in 2016 is no condition to take a week off and try at it in the Wild Card Round. The Giants Offense needs another 60 minutes to improve. They need to run screens with Perkins. They need to have Jerrell Adams block. They need to have Eli stop the telegraphing. They need Victor Cruz to make crisp cuts for more separation. And they certainly need the Offensive Line to play together and get better.
We like to quote Steve Young, who says that September is the new preseason. This is because the CBA has cannibalized training camp practice rules and made cohesiveness a rare commodity in Week 1. Add the turnover and teams are in need of much (MORE) of the regular season to hit their stride. Everyone is in agreement that the team which is “hot” at the end of the regular season is the team with the best chances in the postseason. Why? Because teams are forced to reassemble and find their identity on the go. They spend September sorting themselves out and are completely different teams by December. Each week during the regular season is a chance to improve. Each week is vital to getting into peak “team” cohesiveness.
So are you telling me that you want the Giants to turn it off in Week 17? After a Week 16 loss? With the Giants Offensive having generated an average of 13 points/game the past 4 games? (Steelers garbage time TD does not count). Separating the playoffs from their starters by ~17 days? Every single player (except maybe OBJ) needs to get more practice and playing time in. Frankly, with the number of drops OBJ has made recently, even he could use some more playing time. GET BETTER.
Of course, this is all qualified with those who are hurt sitting it out and getting healthy. On Defense, I’d probably play them the first half and see what that looks like before making a decision about sending out backups. But guys like Okwara? And the Linebackers? Apple (if not nursing an injury)? They need reps. They need to keep learning. Rookies need some rest who have been playing a full season. But most rookies have not had those kind of snaps. GET BETTER.
Another piece of evidence comes directly from Carl Banks. We codified it with a rule. You cannot turn it on and off in the NFL. Get better by playing through. Who are these great Giants to believe they can turn it off in Week 17 and turn it back on in the postseason? They aren’t good enough for that.
One more thing- the Redskins are going to be playing for their lives. Is that really what you want, to be swept by this team? And let them into the playoffs with a golden ticket? I am sure they would not be so charitable to the Giants.
Myth #3- Find a preferred pathway of opponents in the playoffs to maximize chances of winning.
This is a journalist’s special. I have read (well, actually wasted a lot of time and vomit) reading through all these scenarios and how the Giants need Team A to win, Team E to lose and a few other perfectly scripted outcomes so that the Giants can play Team C and not Team G. I think some of this has to do with Journalists having a little too much space to fill on their website/newspaper, and the other part being that these journalists are frankly clueless. Let’s take a step back for a moment. Journalists are skilled at writing. They do not run businesses. They do not have leadership skills. They do not run organizations. Journalists actually think they are the smartest people in the room, which is yet another reason to run in the opposite direction. Right now they are putting forth articles explaining how certain teams in certain stadiums would be bad matchups and that the Giants would be better off playing another team rather than that “harder” opponent. These same journalists have typically been wrong (against the spread, the handicap which they are now handicapping!) year after year.
How old were these journalists in 1990? I was old enough to remember (pre-internet) many of the details of that season. What struck me was how Everson Walls responded to who the Giants would face in the playoffs. Walls, a veteran, explained that the Giants will face who they face, but for his money, he wanted to play against Philadelphia, San Francisco and Buffalo. This went against all conventional thinking. Walls explained that those 3 were the only teams the Giants lost to in the regular season (they were 13-3) and that if you wanted to be the best, you had to beat the best… so why not vanquish the 3 teams who had beaten the Giants along the way?! That was a measure of leadership. That was CONFRONT THE BRUTAL FACTS. That was Robert Frost- “The best way out is through.” Of course, this goes precisely against what the journalists are espousing, namely to pray to God that somehow the Lions beat the Packers and that the Giants avoid having to face the dreaded Lambeau Field.
I remember Jack Nicklaus talking about the US Open Clubhouse, hearing one golfer complaining about the course. “Scratch him off the list, he’s not winning.” Do not look to duck the competition. Do not complain about who you face. Do not complain about the crowd noise or the weather. It seems to me that the people doing the biggest bitching about the weather are the same journalists who are not looking forward to being in Green Bay in January.
I really could care less who they play, and here is why… if GB is so good that they can’t be beaten, then Giants are going to get knocked out anyway. The only time I ever saw a miracle season was 2011. It broke so that when SF beat NO, the Giants didn’t have to face Brees in the dome. The Giants were a 9-7 team that year.. which proves my point, they needed 18,000 miracles and everything needed to be perfect. Otherwise the best team normally wins. So we’re not looking for teams to break a certain a way. The more likely horse (not zebra) is for the Giants Offense to get their head out of their a** (see Myth #2 above), stop being a turnover liability, generate 24 pts and rely on the Defense to hold the other team to 21. Jenkins can lock down Nelson. That’s the best and most likely pathway to a title. Is it going to happen? MAYBE. MAYBE NOT! But the best way out is through. Go into the belly of the beast and lose. Or win and get the confidence the team needs to go all the way. Improve. And then it won’t matter who you play. Or where you play them.
The Giants are 3-4 on the road… we expect a miracle for them to beat 3 good teams on the road? Fix the Offense. It starts in Washington this weekend. Beat a road team and get ready for Green Bay or Seattle, the two least desired opponents. It is going to happen. Stop asking others for answers and make your own luck.