As the clock struck all zeros in the Superdome in Louisiana and the New Orleans Saints claimed a 31-24 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the Saints were not the only team that was celebrating. With the Tampa Bay loss, the New York Giants were able to clinch a wildcard spot in the NFC playoffs. This will be the Giants first postseason game in five seasons and last since Super Bowl XLVI.
While there is a combination of elation and relief with the Giants making it to the playoffs but Big Blue still has one more game to play in the 2016 regular season. For week 17 the G-men will travel to the nation’s capital and plays division rival the Washington Redskins with Washington needing a victory and help from the Detroit Lions to make it to the playoffs. And while Washington’s season in on the line a win in Washington will have no bearing on the Giants because the G-men have secured the 5th seed in the NFC Playoffs.
Now the decision heading into week 17 is will coach Ben McAdoo play his starters in a game that the Giants have no incentive to win. The last time the Giants were in a similar situation was in Week 17 of the 2007 season when the undefeated New England Patriots visited New York and the Pats decided to play the entire first team the entire game to secure a 16-0 regular season. Then Giants head coach Tom Coughlin countered that by playing the Giants first team the entire game. While Big Blue lost that encounter 38-35 the Giants performance in defeat acted as a springboard into the playoffs. The Giants rolled through the NFC and made it to the Super Bowl where they beat the same Patriots 17-14 for the Lombardi Trophy.
The biggest downside to playing your starters when your playoff position is secure is an injury. The best example of injury is Derek Carr who broke his leg last week and is out the rest of the season and will not be able to quarterback the Raiders in their return to the playoffs. Now if that situation occurred in week 17 to a team that has clinched a specific playoff spot the criticism would never end as the media and fan base would target the head coach and front office for allowing a critical injury occur in a worthless season finale.
There is a happy medium that can be used that should keep everyone happy for Big Blue in week 17. Any Giant who is not injured should get repetitions in week 17 but should not play the entire game. Eli Manning, OBJ, and the other healthy Giants should play at most the first half. Janoris Jenkins is in another situation because he is recovering from injury and is a vital cog for the Giants defense. If healthy Jenkins should get some reps at cornerback to allow him to get the proverbial rust off from missing action. And the reason for this strategy is because the Giants ultimate objective is not to beat Washington in week 17 but win the organization’s fifth Super Bowl championship.