EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants can use their Week 17 matchup with the Washington Redskins as an opportunity to rest and heal some of its most valuable players. Or they can use it as a tune-up for the postseason.
This is the dilemma coach Ben McAdoo faces with the Giants locked into the NFC’s fifth playoff slot. Their playoff positioning doesn’t change win or lose on Sunday.
If McAdoo plans on resting players, he sure did a good job of keeping it under wraps when they returned to work on Tuesday. Starting left guard Justin Pugh said he didn’t even mention the playoffs until the team huddled following practice. The message even then was congratulations, be ascending going into the playoffs.
Expect those to be the buzzwords this week: “Be ascending going into the playoffs.”
McAdoo doesn't address the media until after practice on Wednesday. In the meantime, the Giants went about their business Tuesday as if it were any old week.
“I feel like [Tuesday] was business as usual,” Pugh said. “We didn’t talk about the playoffs until coach called us up at the very end of practice today, so we were in there just not talking about it, and we were all Washington [Tuesday].”
The Giants starters are preparing to be on the field Sunday with the Redskins fighting for their playoff lives. Quarterback Eli Manning said Monday he wants to play. Running back Rashad Jenning said Tuesday that he expects Manning and the entire offense to play.
“Yes. Everyone is going to play Sunday,” Jennings said.
The reasoning in the locker room varied. Jennings said it was the next game on the schedule. The Giants want to win because they're competitors.
Wide receiver Victor Cruz seemed to agree. He didn’t think they would do anything special to try to prepare the offense for the postseason.
“I think we just want to go out there and play,” Cruz said. “I don't think it's any emphasis on anything. I think offensively we want to go out there and perform and do what we're capable of doing; that's moving the ball down the field, putting the ball in the end zone and scoring touchdowns, and that's our only goal coming this week, and as of right now we're all playing. So we're going to prepare that way.”
Pugh thought Sunday afternoon in Maryland could serve a specific purpose. The Giants offense hasn’t exactly been a juggernaut this season. They’ve yet to score 30 points in a game and haven’t reached 20 points in any of their last four contests.
They’re ranked 24th in total offense (330.6 yards per game) and 25th in points (19.4). Will Week 17 against the Redskins solve the problems?
“You can work on some of the things that obviously have plagued us thus far this season,” Pugh said. “Obviously we have done some really good things, we have 10 wins. There is a reason why we are in the playoffs. But to go out there and do some things, personally and as a unit, as an offensive line, we obviously have things that we want to work on from last week and you go out there and do that. And like I said before, you want to be ascending going into the playoffs, and we have a chance to do that going up against a tough divisional opponent in their place.”
The benefit of resting players is that it provides them extra time to heal or keep them fresh for the postseason. The Giants have more than a few players -- especially on defense -- dealing with minor injuries. Linebacker Jonathan Casillas (knee), defensive tackle Damon Harrison (knee) and cornerback Janoris Jenkins (back) come to mind.
Curiously, none were in the locker room during the media’s open access period Tuesday.
The fear for the Giants or any team in their situation has to be key players getting hurt in a Week 17 game with no playoff implications. The players aren’t concerned about that.
“I think that if you start trying to play to not get hurt then that is when you do get hurt,” Pugh said. “We have to go out there and do what you have always done, prepare like you have prepared; and this is the start of the playoffs for us. We are going on the road, keep working in hostile environments and learning how to play well on the road is something that we are going to have to get better at, and it is something that we are going to have to do in the playoffs. So this is a good first test for us.”
Maybe that is how McAdoo views it. It seems to be headed in that direction.