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The Talk of the New York Giants Playoff Run Is Too Soon

The NFC East is historically bad this season. If the New York Giants win the division and make a playoff run, it will hurt the team long-term.
Giants Playoff Run

Through 13 weeks of the 2020-21 NFL season, the NFC East is bad. The New York Giants and the Washington Football Team are battling it out for first place with losing records. The Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys have six wins between them. If the playoffs began this week, the Giants would host a playoff game at MetLife Stadium without a winning record. It’s not the first time this has happened in the NFL. Minus a shortened 1982 season, sub-.500 NFL teams have made the playoffs twice in NFL history. The Seattle Seahawks made the playoffs in 2010 after going 7-9 in the regular season. The 7-8-1 Carolina Panthers hosted a playoff game in 2015. In spite of the Giants’ record, there’s excitement about rookie head coach Joe Judge and the improved play of  Daniel Jones. Plus, the Giants defense ranks in the top ten of the league. But for all the positives, a Giants playoff run would hurt the development of the team.

A Giants Playoff Run Is Too Early

If you spend a lot of time listening to New York sports radio or reading the sports pages of the local newspapers, there are serious discussions about the New York Giants playoff chances. The Giants should not aspire to win the NFC East. Why? Hosting a playoff game would hide the team’s flaws and stunt the development of its young core. Second-year quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley are currently the foundation of the New York Giants. The duo is expected to lead Big Blue back to its glory days. But due to a torn ACL suffered by Barkley during Week 2 of this season, the pair have played only one game together for Joe Judge. Jones and Barkley need to be in more high-stress game situations. They need to learn how to win games together.

Both Giants ownership and fans still don’t know what the Big Blue offense with a healthy Jones and Barkley looks like. The Giants’ play has improved over the last month. But until the last three weeks, Daniel Jones struggled without his star running back. In his second year, Jones was still holding on to the ball too long and continued to turn over the football at a record pace. Jones has thrown nine interceptions and fumbled the ball seven times so far in 2020. In order to fully analyze this talented backfield, Jones and Barkley need a full season under their belts. That won’t happen this season. Further, a trip to the NFC playoffs could convince general manager Dave Gettleman the Giants are a finished product. They’re not and there’s still more work to do.

Giants Are Lacking Key Playmakers

To their credit head coach, Joe Judge, and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett have constructed an offense that hides the Giants’ overall lack of talent. Third-year running Wayne Gallman has become a capable fill-in for Barkley. Gallman has rushed for 504 yards and six touchdowns in 11 games this season. But Gallman is better suited as a complementary back with Saquon Barkley. With both backs healthy and productive, Garrett can open up his playbook even more. As presently constituted and with all their players healthy (which is a big if in the NFL) the Giants are a good team. To be an elite perennial playoff contender, the Giants need playmakers defenses must change game plans for. Barkley when healthy is as good or better than Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb, or Derrick Henry. The Giants need more talent.

Daniel Jones and the passing game could use another playmaker as well. As he’s developing in his second year, Jones is being asked to avoid the big turnover and take shots down the field occasionally. The second-year quarterback is adequately distributing the football amongst tight end Evan Engram and receivers Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton. Unfortunately, while Engram and Slayton have shown flashes of great play, for the Giants to reach that next level of success, Big Blue needs a more feared receiving threat. Again, if the Giants didn’t add to their receiving corps, they’re a good team. But a true number one receiver alongside Slayton and Shepard would allow Jones and the offense to take huge steps forward.

The Defense Could Improve

On the defensive front, the Giants are a top ten defense overall and top five against the run. Leonard Williams, a former sixth overall draft pick of the New York Jets, is finally reaching his potential. He leads the team with 8.5 sacks from the defensive tackle spot. In order for the Giants’ defense to take its next step forward, Big Blue still needs an elite pass rusher. The Giants’ defense is well-coached, disciplined, and savvy. To compete with the elite teams of the NFL, the Giants need at least one more playmaker along the defensive line. As Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams can attest to, it’s easier to double team defensive tackles that pressure quarterbacks from the interior. But if you’re able to line up an elite pass rusher on the outside with a stud defensive tackle, you’re defense becomes unblockable.

Dave Gettleman and the coaching staff have a huge job ahead of them. Joe Judge has seemed to stabilize the coaching situation and brought in a winning culture. It’s up to Big Blue’s talent evaluators to bring in key playmakers. To Gettleman’s credit, some of his moves are already working. Cornerback James Bradberry, linebacker Blake Martinez, and safety Logan Ryan have excelled. Bradberry and Martinez could be named to the Pro Bowl. However, the Giants need more talent.

How to Win in the NFL

If the New York Giants didn’t lose Saquon Barkley to injury in Week 2, they’ve could have gone .500 this season. With some luck, they could have won nine games. With so much youth on their roster and a first-year head coach, this season could have been the foundation of long-term success. The core of this team could have played in some meaningful games and gone through needed growing pains. Ownership could have properly evaluated the team in the off-season and added playmakers in key spots. But now, a bad NFC East has pressed fast forward on the New York Giants’ plans. The playoffs are within reach and that could be a problem. In order to win year after year in the NFL, you need the right mix of coaching, culture, elite talent, and luck.

The Giants currently have some of those elements. But not all of them. That’s why the talk of a New York Giants playoff run is too soon.

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