You only need a quick glance at the NFC standings to understand the magnitude of the matchup. And if you would prefer to see hard data, that is available as well. If the Giants win, they have an 84% chance to make the playoffs according to The New York Times’ Upshot projections. If they lose? It’s a 25% chance.
So yes, the Week 15 should be treated as a playoff game. If the Giants win, they have a very good chance to break out of their tailspin in time to earn a surprise playoff appearance. And if they do not, odds are this unexpectedly competitive year will end with a disappointing thud.
That said … this will not necessarily be the absolute make-or-break event it will be billed as.
Two very good things happened out west for the Giants while they were licking their post-Eagles wounds: The 49ers rolled past the Buccaneers, suggesting they will not necessarily be receding to the pack with Brock Purdy at quarterback. And more importantly, the Panthers upset the Seahawks.
We’re going assume: The Eagles win the NFC East. The Cowboys grab the top wild card spot. Someone wins the NFC South. And the Niners and Vikings hold on in the NFC West and North.
That leaves two wild card spots for four teams: The Giants, Commanders, Seahawks and Lions. The Giants have already lost the head-to-head tiebreaker with Detroit and Seattle and they could lose it to Washington next. But they still have a game lead on the Seahawks in the loss column and a two-game lead on the Lions. The same goes for Washington, which has also lost to the Lions.
The Giants have a tough remaining schedule, but so do the Commanders and Seahawks. Detroit has a more manageable final four games, but they have more ground to make up. So it is conceivable, albeit perhaps unlikely, the Giants could lose to Washington, but then scratch together two more wins (the Colts and the nothing-to-play-for Eagles in Week 18?) and eke in at 9-7-1. Or even find a way to sneak in at 8-8-1 if everything breaks down.
Bottom line: The Giants would be wise to beat Washington if they want to make the playoffs. But if they lose, they cannot be written off immediately.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]