After a brutal loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, the Giants record stands at 6-3, good enough for a commanding two-game lead over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East (pending the result of Monday night’s game).
Despite a division title looking probable, due mainly to the ineptness of the rest of the division, home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs appears to be a long shot for Big Blue. Below are the current NFC playoff teams as it stands on Nov. 5:
- Atlanta Falcons (8-0)
- Chicago Bears (7-1)
- San Francisco 49ers (6-2)
- New York Giants (6-3)
- Green Bay Packers (6-3)
- Seattle Seahawks (5-4)*
*Wins tiebreaker over the Minnesota Vikings based on head-to-head win percentage
The first problem for the Giants in grabbing the No. 1 seed is the fact that they have to leapfrog three teams to do so. It is difficult to expect the Falcons, Bears and 49ers, who are a combined 21-3, all to lose enough games down the stretch to allow the Giants to pass them.
Another problem is that the undefeated Falcons have a really easy schedule the rest of the way. Atlanta only plays one team in its final eight games with a winning record, which happens to be the Giants at home in Week 15. The Falcons seem destined for 13 wins at worst, which means the Giants would have to go undefeated over their last seven games to match them.
This brings up a final reason why home-field advantage for the Giants appears improbable—they simply haven't been playing well lately. If the Redskins had covered Victor Cruz properly on the 77-yard game-winning touchdown pass two weeks ago and Dez Bryant had landed butt first in the end zone last week, New York would be riding a three-game losing streak right now. Expecting them to win 12 or 13 games at this point seems ridiculous when they are playing more like a .500 team.
Current odds for the Giants to claim the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage: 10 percent
So if the Giants aren’t going to finish No. 1 in the NFC, where will they ultimately be seeded? Last week I predicted that the Giants would finish 11-5. Standing by this prognostication, I think that will be good enough for the No. 4 seed.
The 49ers should hold off the Giants for the No. 3 seed despite New York possessing the tiebreaker due to its victory over San Francisco in Week 6, because they have a manageable schedule in the second half. The Bears also look to have only two or three losses left based on their remaining slate of games.
Here are my full projections for the NFC playoff teams and seedings:
- Falcons (14-2)
- Bears (13-3)
- 49ers (12-4)
- Giants (11-5)
- Packers (11-5)
- Bucs (9-7)
If my projections pan out, then the Giants would have a difficult wild-card-round matchup against the Packers. They would be much better off as the No. 3 seed facing the Bucs or other potential No. 6 seeds like the Seahawks, Vikings or Lions.
Where the Giants are seeded and who they face in the playoffs is secondary, though, to how they are playing entering the postseason. The Giants need to have Eli Manning and the passing attack at peak form if they are going to repeat as champions.
They also must prevent opposing offenses from consistently shredding them on the ground or through the air. The Giants have allowed either 150 yards rushing or 275 yards passing by the opposition in five of their last six games.
If New York can fix these issues come the first week of January then they will be the team to beat in the NFC, even as a No. 4 seed.