With the top Wild Card spot already clinched, there exists a lot of debate over what the Giants should do with their starters against the Washington Redskins.
Despite their early clinch, the Giants are locked into the top Wild Card spot in the NFC and no matter what happens in their game against the Washington Redskins on Sunday, they will have no opportunity to move up or down in the standings.
Thus, a debate has risen among Giants fans surrounding what the team should do with the Redskins game.
Should they treat it like any other regular season contest, or conserve their top players, effectively treating Week 17 like a bye week?
Considering the Giants have nothing to play for besides pride against Washington, the natural instinct of many fans would be to conserve their starters for the playoffs and treat the Redskins game for what it really is, meaningless.
After coming off a very unconvincing loss against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday, many Giants fans are concerned that limping into the playoffs with back to back divisional losses is hardly the momentum the team needs to mount a championship run.
Thus, they feel like the Giants should come out guns blazing against Washington, in hopes that the victory can carry them into a strong playoff performance.
I’d like to propose a middle ground between those two options: treat Week 17 like a rookie showcase.
Obviously keeping key personnel like Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. healthy is paramount, and I don’t see either guy benefiting much from a strong performance against Washington, so I’d like to see Ben McAdoo limit their snaps. Furthermore, players like Janoris Jenkins, Keenan Robinson and Jonathan Casillas, all of whom are battling injuries should be held out.
Nonetheless, no one would be opposed to seeing some of New York’s younger players, even the ones who see significant playing time, become the focal point of the team on Sunday.
Consider Paul Perkins, the lone bright spot of the Giants’ run game this year, who is set to become the number one back come playoff time. Perkins has yet to see more the 15 carries in a game this year.
The rookie out of UCLA has yet to see more the 15 carries in a game this year. Would anyone be opposed to seeing PP get 20-25 touches against Washington? The answer should be a definitive no.
Or, there’s the case of Sterling Shepard, who has become a quintessential red zone target for the Giants this year. Shepard has seen most of his success out of the slot this season, which is to be expected with Beckham and Victor Cruz on the outside.
However, in a game where Odell is set to see reduced snaps, why can’t Shepard become the focus of the passing game? Elevating his stock prior to the Wild Card round seems paramount to the Giants’ success.
While all three players have certainly filled their respective roles well this season, they have yet to experience an in-game situation where they hold one of the most difficult assignments. Thrusting them into those situations against Washington can only benefit them in the Wild Card round.
While it seems silly for the Giants to outright throw the game against the playoff-hungry Redskins, playing all their starters doesn’t seem like the most prudent idea either. Therefore, the plan that makes the most sense is to put rookies in key situations, in hopes that it will help prepare them for the most important game of their young NFL careers.