NY Giants Looking Good as NFC Playoff Race Thickens

Jets Giants FootballIt’s been 5 years since a New York team has made the playoffs. But the New York Giants are looking to end this streak in 2016, as they’re in excellent shaping heading into the last five weeks of the regular season.

Few could’ve foreseen this coming on the heels of three-straight losing seasons, including 6-10 marks in both 2014 and ’15. But new coach Ben McAdoo has breathed new life into this team, which is on the verge of making the playoffs.

Here’s a look at how the Giants stand in both their division and the Wild Card race:

NFC East Standings
1. Dallas Cowboys – 10-1
2. NY Giants – 8-3
3. Washington Redskins – 6-4-1
4. Philadelphia Eagles – 5-6

NFC Wild Card Race
1. Giants – 8-3
2. Redskins – 6-4-1
3. Minnesota Vikings – 6-5
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 6-5
T-5. Green Bay Packers – 5-6
T-5. New Orleans Saints – 5-6
T-5. Eagles – 5-6

As you can see, the Giants are in firm command of a Wild Card spot, and they likely only need one more win to seal a playoff berth. Their six game winning streak has also put them within two games of the division, which, with a victory over the Cowboys on Dec. 11, isn’t entirely unrealistic.

The biggest drawback to New York’s playoff chances is that their last five games are against teams with a collective record of 34-19-1. Even throwing out Dallas’ 10-1 record, they still have a 24-18-1 mark.

Do the Giants have enough to hold off any challenging Wild Card seekers, even with their tough remaining schedule? Let’s discuss the matter below by looking at the closest challengers.

Washington Redskins (6-4-1; 3rd in NFC East)

kirk-cousins-steelersThe Redskins offense is rolling, with Kirk Cousins throwing 11 touchdowns and just 1 interception in the last five contests. This team is also 6-2-1 after starting the season off 0-2. The only two games that they’ve lost in the last nine contests were by a combined 8 points to road teams (Cowboys, Lions). Don’t expect Washington to cool off any time soon because their next four games are against losing teams.

Minnesota Vikings (6-5; 2nd in NFC North)

sam-bradford-vikingsOnce a 5-0 team with Super Bowl aspirations, Minnesota is now fighting for their playoff lives. With Adrian Peterson likely sidelined for the year, the Vikings rushing attack is arguably the league’s worst. Given that Sam Bradford has never been a dynamic playmaker in his career, this is bad news because it puts more pressure on the passing game. But the good news is that Minnesota has an elite defense that keeps them in games. The Vikings play a tough game against Dallas tonight, but after this they end the season with four straight opponents with sub .500 records.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5; second in AFC South)

jameis-winston-tampa-bayIt was beginning to look like a very Tampa Bay season when they were 3-5. However, they’ve won three straight games to jump back into the race, including victories at Kansas City and Seattle. Defense has been the name of the game ever since they gave up a combined 73 points to Oakland (Oct. 30) and Atlanta (Nov. 3). The Bucs look solid on both sides of the ball, but they’ll continue being tested against elite offenses in New Orleans (twice), Dallas, and San Diego.

Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles – All 5-6

drew-breesNew York doesn’t need to worry about these teams because, with 5 games left, the chances of any of these squads catching the Giants is very small. However, it wouldn’t be crazy to see one of these teams go 4-1 down the stretch and secure a playoff spot at 9-7. New York currently has tiebreakers over Philly and New Orleans, but Green Bay holds an edge over the Giants because they beat them on Oct. 9.

Also note that the Detroit Lions (7-4) and Atlanta Falcons (7-4) are currently winning their divisions, but they could also drop into the Wild Card hunt if they lose.

Can the Giants Still Win the NFC East?

As mentioned before, New York isn’t totally out of the NFC East race. In fact, they’re the only team even close to Dallas, and they get to face them in the Meadowlands on Dec. 11.

Odds are that the Cowboys will win most of their games up to this point, forcing New York to win if they want the division crown. But Dallas also has a tough schedule since they face five playoff-hungry teams in the Vikings, Giants, Buccaneers, Lions, and Eagles. Even in the worst-case scenario, Dallas will probably get 12 wins, which is an incredibly high bar for New York to win the East and possibly get a first-round bye.

With an upcoming schedule that includes @Pittsburgh, Dallas, Detroit, @Philadelphia, and @Washington, the Giants will likely be content with a Wild Card spot.

Are Kirk Cousins and the Redskins in Trouble Already?

kirk-cousins-steelersKirk Cousins had a breakout year in 2015, tallying career-high stats and leading the Redskins to the playoffs. His reward was a large one-year deal worth $19.95 million.

The reason for the one-year deal is that Washington wants to make sure that Cousins is set for long-term success, rather than a one-hit wonder. The sample size in 2016 is small, but so far, it hasn’t been good.

Washington was crushed 38-16 in their season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. And now the question is if Cousins and the Washington Redskins are already in trouble.

Cousins has been in the league for five years now, and he’s 28 years old. He’s no longer a “work in progress” as he’d been described in previous years while sitting on Washington’s bench.

Last year, it seemed as if Cousins had finally arrived. His first four years spent in Washington seemed to have prepared him for last season’s success.

But against Pittsburgh, Cousins reverted back to the backup/part-time starter that he’d been in his first few NFL seasons. Sure he threw for 329 yards, but much of this was in garbage time. What’s worse is that he tossed two interceptions and often made poor decisions by throwing into coverage.

The Washington Post covered multiple plays where Cousins missed reads and failed to move the offense. Some plays he just flat-out failed to see what the defense was doing and made the wrong decision with short passes that went for little-to-no yardage.

kirk-cousins-2016To be fair, Pittsburgh has a strong all-around defense that did a good job against Cousins. But if the 5-year veteran had played like he did down the stretch of last season, he could’ve still found holes in the Pittsburgh secondary.

2015 saw Cousins complete 69.8% of his passes while racking up 4,166 yards, 29 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and a 101.6 QBR.

This shows that he’s capable of being a very strong quarterback who can lead Washington to victory. But he can’t play like he did against Pittsburgh for that to happen.

The good news is that this was just one game on the opening weekend – against a Super Bowl contender no doubt.

More good news is that Washington has the Dallas Cowboys coming up this Sunday. Dallas was burned for 3 touchdown passes by Eli Manning last week. Cousins is capable of playing as well as Manning, and he has solid weapons around him, most notably tight end Jordan Reed.

Our GTBets line for this week has Washington as a -2.5 favorite. The Cowboys not only have rookie Dak Prescott starting at quarterback, but they also feature a below-average defense.

With a slightly stronger team and capable QB, Washington has a solid chance to win this game. But if they can’t beat the Cowboys, then they’ll have a very tough time repeating last season’s success.

After all, the back-end of their schedule features some difficult out-of-division games, including @Cincinnati (Week 8), Minnesota (Week 10), Green Bay (Week 11), @Arizona (Week 13), and Carolina (Week 14). This doesn’t even include the division rivalry games that Washington will have to win to defend their NFC East crown.

Again, the season is only one game old, so Washington has enough time to show that their Week 1 dismantling was a fluke. But it needs to start this Sunday with a victory over the Cowboys.