joe judge giants
Syndication: The Record

Sigh. Not this again.

The Jaguars and Titans are locked in to what is effectively a Week 18 AFC South title game* in Jacksonville. No Week 17 results will change the win-and-in (or tie-and-in, if you’re the Jags) stakes.

The Titans have opted to punt on this weekend’s game against the Cowboys and get as healthy as possible for the big showdown in Duval. Not that they had much chance to beat Dallas even if they were at full strength, of course. But the Jaguars have decided they will play to win against the Texans this weekend. Why, you ask?

“There’s never a meaningless game,” Jaguars coach Doug Pederson told reporters, via “Never, ever, ever, ever. You play to win every game. The only way I rest players is if they’re hurt and can’t go.”

Pederson had to know what he was doing there, right? He comes the umpteenth re-hashing of the Nate Sudfeld Incident. Let’s play back the Joe Judge temper tantrum after his 6-10 Giants team was “screwed” out of the biggest participation trophy in NFL history because the Eagles had the audacity to replace their ineffective starting quarterback (Jalen Hurts) with an ineffective backup quarterback against the then-Washington Football Team. And that the WFT — which already had the lead when Hurts exited — then won and clinched the NFC East. How is the investigation going, Sal Paolantonio?

A few quick thoughts. And then we will never discuss this again unless new information becomes available:

• The WFT was the rightful NFC East champion. They were clearly the best team in the division and deserved to win it. They would have finished with a winning record had Alex Smith been the quarterback the entire season.

• The Eagles did not “tank.” Sudfeld played as hard as Hurts did. They just did not put their “best” team on the field in an effort to get a better draft spot. Which they did, and then turned into Devonta Smith. “Tanking” is when you purposely lose. Building an imperfect team for the sake of your long-term benefit is just good business.

The Giants once willingly played Geno Smith over Eli Manning, remember. They quickly lost the plot because all hell broke loose. But there was a plot at the start, and it was a rational one: They wanted to move on from Manning, reward Smith, see what Davis Webb could do and then potentially draft a franchise quarterback. Then John Mara got spooked, fired everyone and Dave Gettleman told him what he wanted to hear.

• I’ve always believed the Week 2 loss to Washington in 2021 was the beginning of the end for Judge. But maybe his hissy-fit after this game was instead the pivot point.

• The outcry over what the Eagles did remains one of the dumbest things in recent NFL history.

And to get back to the current day: An important aspect to the Jaguars’ decision that no one seems to be mentioning? If they beat Houston but lose to the Titans, there is a plausible path for them to eke into the tournament as the final AFC wild card. It’s not necessarily probable, but it isn’t all that crazy: If the Dolphins lose out, the Jets lose to the Seahawks and the Patriots lose to the Bills, the Jags would have a 7-5 record in the AFC and win the tiebreaker over any other 8-9 team.

* — Tough blow for NBC. I would imagine Jaguars-Titans is the absolute last Sunday Night Football season finale matchup a network suit would hope for.

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James Kratch can be reached at


James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.