After consecutive losses to the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles, the New York Giants entered Week 12 in dire need of a victory to end their recent slide and keep pace in the NFC playoff picture.
So with the Jacksonville Jaguars paying a visit to the new Meadowlands Stadium, and games against the Washington Redskins (2), the Minnesota Vikings, the Eagles and the Green Bay Packers remaining on their schedule, it goes without saying the Giants’ margin for error decreases significantly with each passing week.
That said, as Week 12 action draws to a close, the G-Men should be extremely thankful for several results that placed them in prime position to control their playoff destiny.
5. Minnesota Vikings – 17, Washington Redskins – 13
Prior to their home tilt with Minnesota, the Redskins stood only one game behind the Giants in the NFC East and the race for the last NFC wild-card spot.
However, despite Leslie Frazier making his debut on the head coaching circuit and Adrian Peterson, the NFC’s leading rusher, sidelined since the second quarter with an ankle injury, Minnesota handed the Redskins a crushing defeat at FedEx Field.
The loss opened the door for the Giants to double their lead over Washington with only five games left to play in the regular season.
With an enthusiastic, young second-year head coach and a 22-year-old quarterback who’s taken giant leaps in his maturation process this season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have gone from preseason outcasts to viable playoff contenders.
And with a dominating 21-0 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 11, Tampa Bay moved one game ahead of the Giants for the final wild-card spot in the NFC.
But a tough road loss to the Baltimore Ravens, one of the top teams in the AFC, left the Buccaneers on the outside looking in coming down the home stretch and in a chase with the Green Bay Packers to catch the New York Giants for the aforementioned wild-card spot.
3. Atlanta Falcons – 20, Green Bay Packers – 17
Unlike Tampa Bay, several NFL analysts tabbed the Packers to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLV.
Nevertheless, following Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the Packers, who have made due in spite of season-ending injuries to running back Ryan Grant and tight end Jermichael Finley, wouldn’t even make the playoffs if the season ended today.
In fact, as it currently stands, Green Bay has to leap-frog the Buccaneers and the Giants to qualify for the postseason. So their game against New York at Lambeau Field the day after Christmas looms extremely large.
2. Chicago Bears – 31, Philadelphia Eagles – 26
Although the Chicago Bears have their fair share of doubters, all they do is keep on winning to maintain their lead over Green Bay in the NFC Central.
Their fourth consecutive victory, and their most convincing one of the season, came at the expense of Michael Vick and the red-hot Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field.
So although the Eagles remain perched atop the NFC East by virtue of their win over New York in Week 11, they have a quick turn-around this week as they face the Houston Texans Thursday evening before hitting the road to take on the Dallas Cowboys and the Giants in Week 14 and Week 15 respectively.
In addition, what the Eagles’ loss did is give the Giants an edge over Philadelphia in a conference tie-breaker scenario if that were ever to come into play as far as postseason positioning is concerned.
1. New York Giants – 24, Jacksonville Jaguars – 20
If the Giants can consistently play turnover-free football and combine it with a swarming defense that pounds opposing quarterbacks into submission, like they did in the second half of their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, they should win their five remaining games to qualify for the postseason.
And for New York, controlling their own destiny is exactly the position they want to be in at this stage of the season.
Therefore, the G-Men can look to Week 12 as a time when the football bounced in their favor in Washington, Baltimore, Atlanta, Chicago and, most importantly, in the friendly confines of the new Meadowlands Stadium.
Now it’s all on their shoulders to capitalize on this good fortune.