Big Blue Morning: The Playoff Machine

Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants.

The news of the day: Hakeem Nicks says he'll play Sunday, but that doesn't erase the weird mystery that continues to surround his disappointing season. He says he's been dealing with an abdominal injury all year and that his agent recommended he get it looked at by team doctors this week. That's why he's on the injury report for the first time with it, I guess, but he didn't want to explain it very much. Just says he's playing. So we'll see. Some other stuff that happened Thursday included defensive coordinator Perry Fewell comparing Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as a guy who's "seen it all," as well as a lot of talk about how different the Giants' defense is from when they faced the Cowboys in Week 1 with no Jon Beason or Will Hill and a still-recovering Jason Pierre-Paul. But it's the passing game that's got to elevate to new heights if the Giants are going to cash in their sudden hot streak with a real playoff run. And that's why Nicks remains a story. The Cowboys are the worst pass defense in the league, and if Eli Manning and his receivers can't get it going this week, we have license to believe they won't.

Behind enemy lines: The big news from Dallas on Thursday has little to do with this week's game, but a lot of people were surprised to hear Jerry Jones say Jason Garrett would return as head coach next year no matter how this year ends up. I wasn't, because I think Jones has strong personal feelings about Garrett and wants him to be the coach long-term. And yeah, it's certainly possible that Jones could change his mind next year or even tomorrow. But I've long believed that Garrett's seat wasn't as hot as many people assumed it to be. Doesn't much matter whether people outside the building think he's a good coach. Only Jones' opinion on this counts.

Around the division: Mike Sando and my "NFL Insiders" colleague Louis Riddick broke down the issues plaguing the Washington Redskins and whether they'll be able to overcome them. It's going to be real tough for any potential fixes to matter in time for this season, but the story is what happens power-structure-wise once the offseason rolls around.

Around the league: If you'd like to see exactly which scenarios will and won't lead to the Giants' making the playoffs, look no further than ESPN's Playoff Machine, which allows you to play out the remainder of the NFL season as many different ways as you'd like to see which teams make the playoffs. You can go to each week and put in your projected results from each game and see the playoff field change as you do it. And yes, I just wrecked any chance you had to get anything done at work today. You're welcome, America.