The New York Giants could have created some separation in the NFC East division race by beating the Washington Redskins tonight. The Giants could have had a two game lead on the Cowboys and a three game lead on the Redskins with only four games to play, which most likely would have assured them a playoff spot. But in typical Giants fashion, the Giants made the division a battle and although unlikely, it is conceivable that they could miss the playoffs completely.
First, let’s take a look at how they lost to the Redskins.
- They couldn’t stop the run (but overall holding the Redskins to only 17 points was a solid defensive effort).
- Penalties will be the blemish on the Giants. The Giants averaged only four penalties per game heading into this game, but they were called for nine penalties for a total of 73 yards, including several big penalties in the second half.
- A missed field goal from the NFL’s leading point scorer (which turned out to be the difference in this game).
- To me, another major reason for this loss is the play calling in the fourth quarter. The Redskins are a great defense against the run, and they are very susceptible to big plays in the passing game (which is the only reason they didn’t beat the Giants earlier in the season). I still can’t believe the reliance on the run game at the end of the game. Eli had wide receivers getting behind the secondary all game long (granted he missed some throws). How do they not take a shot deep with a top five quarterback in crunch time?
The effects of this loss could have major implications down the road for the Giants. Let’s look at the schedules of the teams in the Wild Card hunt and the NFC East division race:
- Gaints – Saints, @Falcons, @Ravens, Eagles
- Redskins – Ravens, @Browns, @Eagles, Cowboys
- Cowboys – @Bengals, Steelers, Saints, @Redskins
- Bears – @Vikings, Packers, @Cards, @Lions
- Seahawks – Cards, @Bills, 49ers, Rams
Let’s make the following assumptions based on those schedules. Giants finish 1-3 (win vs Eagles, possibly 2-2, but I don’t like the match-up against the Saints), that leaves the Giants at 8-8. Redskins finish 2-2 (win vs Browns and Eagles, possible 3-1 by beating the Cowboys in DC) that leaves the Redskins at 8-8. Cowboys finish 1-3 (win vs Redskins, possible win vs Saints and loss to Redskins also equals 1-3) that leaves the Cowboys at 7-9. Bears finish 3-1 (win vs Vikings, Cards and Lions) that leaves the Bears at 11-5. Seahawks finish 3-1 (wins vs Cards, Bills and Rams, possible 2-2 if they get bad weather in Buffalo) that leaves the Seahawks at 10-6.
Under this scenario, the Seahawks and Bears remain the Wild Card as they are today, and the Redskins would tie the Giants for the NFC East. They split the season series, so the tie breaker would be record within the division. Currently, the Redskins are 3-1 and the Giants are 2-3. According to my assumptions, the Redskins finish 4-2 while the Giants finish 3-3 thus the Redskins win the division and the Giants miss the playoffs.
This game could have major implications for the Giants, and it was a game they probably should have won.
[Photo Credit: Jim Rogash/Getty Images via TheStartingFive.net]