The Giants cannot do anything Sunday to inflict any real harm on the Cowboys in the regular-season finale at MetLife Stadium. The Cowboys are locked into the No. 4 slot in the NFC postseason tournament and will play a home playoff game during wild-card weekend. Win or lose, it does not matter much to the Cowboys.
That does not mean the Giants, at least their longest-tenured player, are looking to give the Cowboys a free pass.
“We want to go out there and play a rival team,’’ Eli Manning said. “I don’t know if they’re playing everybody or not, but I’ve been in that situation before, and you want to go out and win, and carry a little momentum going into the playoffs, and it’s our job to put a little doubt in their mind, and go beat a good team.’’
Spoken like someone who knows his way around a division rivalry. It is safe to say not many — or any — Giants inside their team facility will be rooting for an extended Cowboys playoff run. Coach Pat Shurmur, in his first year with the Giants, does not see it that way. Beating a playoff team is about lifting up the Giants, not tearing down the Cowboys.
“I’ve never used that as motivation,’’ Shurmur said. “I think you play the team for who it is, and I think that’s more for the fans to enjoy. I think what’s important is we understand it’s a division game and you’re always trying to match up against your division. So to beat a division opponent who this year won the division would be a good thing.”
In a reversal from two weeks ago, Browns QB Baker Mayfield is now the favorite to win Rookie of the Year honors, according to Bovada, which puts the odds of Mayfield winning at 5/7 and the odds of Saquon Barkley wining at 1/1.
Barkley is the star of the 2018 draft haul for the Giants, and second-round pick Will Hernandez has not missed a snap as the starting left guard.
The third round added two defenders who are a big part of the plan moving forward. Defensive tackle B.J. Hill was a Week 1 starter and leads the team with five sacks. Outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter has made a slower adjustment to the NFL game but he has three sacks and his range from sideline to sideline is impressive.
“Both of those guys, they’re growing and there’s been parts of their game that has gotten better each and every week,’’ defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. “Hopefully that’s the foundation of what they have as they move into their second year for us, that they’ll be able to be more consistent with some of their, not work ethic, but the purposeful work that they need to improve each and every week.’’
The Giants are tied with the Panthers with an NFL-high seven losses by seven points or less.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett called Manning “a fantastic player’’ and described Barkley as “off the charts.’’ Garrett could not stop gushing about Barkley.
“The challenge is, he beats you so many different ways,’’ Garrett said. “He can run the ball inside, he can bounce it and win on the edges, he’s a really good pass receiver, he’s great run-after-catch, he’s physical, he’s hard to bring down with one guy but he’s got quickness and explosiveness, acceleration and speed that’s just off the charts. He’s just a hell of a football player, and I don’t know that anybody’s slowed him down all year long in our view.’’