If the NFL season were spread out like a humongous amusement park, the New York Giants would be the roller coaster everyone stands in line two hours to ride. With one game left in the season and the Giants needing a ton of help to make the playoffs, it's more than likely those on the ride will end up puking on their shoes when it's finally over.
Still, there's that slim chance that it could be—just like last season—the ride of a lifetime, which is what makes the ride worth the wait, year after year.
It seems virtually impossible for the Giants to make the playoffs this season, needing to beat the Philadelphia Eagles and hope the Cowboys, Vikings and Bears all lose on Sunday as well. Fans should be screaming to get off the Giants' ride before it ends with a crash. But what if it doesn't? What if the last two horrible weeks have just been a series of blood-curdling drops before heading into a final twist and turn fans will be talking about for years?
What if the Giants do make the playoffs? Is it really that crazy to believe this ride won't end with a thud?
Well, Vegas thinks a crash is coming. The likelihood of the Giants even making the playoffs is so implausible that Vegas odds have them at 40/1 to win the NFC and 75/1 to win the Super Bowl (via bovada.lv), the lowest of any team with a chance to qualify for the playoffs.
Having said that, the Giants are favored to beat the Eagles on Sunday. As terrible as the Giants have been the last two weeks while controlling their own destiny, looking like they've given up on what started out as a very promising season, the Eagles have somehow been worse all year.
The only glimmer of hope for Philadelphia was that Nick Foles sort of looks like he could be a promising young quarterback. Unfortunately, the rookie broke his hand last week and Michael Vick is getting his last chance to play in an Eagles uniform after missing more than six full games with a concussion that paved the way for Foles to take over as the starter.
Talk about a scary ride: Vick under center for the Eagles is like a Tilt-a-Whirl without the seats bolted down.
Assuming the Giants get their act together with the season on the line and beat the Eagles, the rest of the help New York needs isn't actually that implausible. Really.
With all the NFL tiebreakers, the Giants need the Redskins to win the NFC East over the Dallas Cowboys to have a chance to advance to the playoffs. Despite the fact the Giants split with both Dallas and Washington, the tiebreakers all come out in favor of the Redskins over the Giants. So, if the Giants do beat the Eagles and all the other games fall their way, New York will be big fans of RGIII and company on Sunday night.
That's obviously getting a little too far ahead for Giants fans. The G-Men still need a lot more help to even get to Sunday night with a chance at the sixth and final playoff spot.
First, New York needs to root for Detroit to beat Chicago. The Lions have had an abysmal season—other than Calvin Johnson breaking the single-season receiving yards mark—but nothing could make Detroit fans happier than beating the Chicago Bears to keep them out of the playoffs. Of all teams, the Lions can play spoilers for the Bears, and they get them at home. It's the best possible scenario for Giants fans.
Granted, Chicago is still a three-point favorite over Detroit, but it's hard to imagine that any Bears fan is confident heading into this game, despite the fact the Lions haven't won since the beginning of November. If ever there was a week to get a win, it's this week.
Improbable as it may be given their records, it's really not that far out of the realm of possibility that Detroit's offense scores enough points to beat the Bears. If that happens, the Giants can hold out hope that the late-afternoon Sunday games go their way as well.
Does anyone really expect the Vikings to beat the Packers when a first-round bye is on the line for Green Bay?
Sure, the game is in Minnesota, and yes, Adrian Peterson is a leading candidate for MVP (by the way, he needs 208 yards to break the single-season rushing mark and rushed for 210 yards at Green Bay in Week 13), but the Packers have lost just once in the last 11 weeks and have just two losses since the replacement referees handed a Packers victory to Seattle in Week 3. With Seattle still having a chance for that first-round bye—if Green Bay and San Francisco both lose—there is extra motivation for the Packers to finish the job against Peterson and the Vikings.
Really, then, that's all the Giants need to make the playoffs. It actually seems rather plausible when each twist and turn is examined on its own. Sure, the bigger picture makes the roller coaster ride of Week 17 seem incredibly death-defying, but a loopty-loop followed by a corkscrew followed by a helix doesn't seem all that daunting when each are examined by themselves.
Still, nobody would blame a Giants fan for looking at that list of what-ifs and wanting to puke.
There is hope, though. Three shoulds and a could stand in front of New York getting back to the playoffs: The Giants should beat the Eagles at home; the Redskins should beat the Cowboys at home; the Packers should beat the Vikings with home-field advantage on the line; and the Lions could beat the Bears in a rivalry game with nothing but pride on the line in Detroit.
Three Shoulds and a Could. It makes a terrible name for a roller coaster, but it makes for one helluva ride for the Giants in Week 17.
And then what? If the Giants do make the playoffs, they would most likely travel to San Francisco for the Wild Card Round. We remember what happened there last year in the playoffs. Then the Giants would have to travel to play the Falcons in the Georgia Dome. Sure, the 2011 matchup was outside in the elements in New Jersey, but we remember what happened to Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense last year when they faced the Giants in the playoffs.
What then? The Patriots in the Super Bowl again? Eli vs. Peyton? The storylines in either matchup would be amazing.
Of course, we are speculating—fine, I am speculating and you are laughing at the absurdity of this idea—about a team making the Super Bowl that has been outscored 67-14 the last two weeks, both of which were essentially must-win games.
Still, the Giants did put up 52 on the Saints a few weeks ago, and they did beat the Packers 38-10 in late November. And the Giants don't have to beat the Falcons or the Baltimore Ravens this week. They only have to beat the Eagles and hope for help.
No matter how the regular season ends, it has already been a bumpy ride for the Giants, so even if it ends in utter disappointment—or a vomit-inducing crash at the finish—it's still too early to jump off. All the craziness is just ahead on the track.