New York Giants' road to the postseason not so complicated

The New York Giants are in third place in the NFC East and have five wins in 15 tries, with one game remaining Sunday when they host the Dallas Cowboys (1 p.m. ET, Fox) in Week 17 of the 2020 NFL season.

Only in the NFC East do they still have a chance to win the division, and they had some help following their own 27-13 blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 16.

On the flip side, and with more help, the Giants (5-10) could end up with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. It's possible in this improbable season. Oh, the swing of emotions, so incredibly monumental between the two.

This is where The Fighting Joe Judges stand heading into the regular-season finale. A win to potentially capture the division, a loss to remain in the top eight of the draft. Which is better for the long-term betterment of the franchise?

If the Giants (5-10) beat the Cowboys (6-9) at MetLife Stadium and the Philadelphia Eagles (4-10-1) handle the Washington Football Team (6-9), there would be a three-way tie atop the NFC East. The Giants would win the division based off their 3-1 head-to-head record against Dallas and Washington.

So there you have it, the unorthodox road to a 6-10 NFC East title and a playoff berth for the Giants. From 0-5 to 1-7 to 6-10 and winning a division that nobody seems to want.

Incredibly, it's not so crazy. ESPN's Football Power Index currently has it as a 24.4% possibility the Giants grab it with six wins while every other division in the NFC has a team with at least 11 victories and another week to play. The NFC East, by default, will have the first team in NFL history to start a season 2-7 or worse and go to the playoffs, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau.

It's all possible because of what happened Sunday. An Eagles' win over Dallas or a Washington victory over Carolina would have buried the Giants. But ... nope. Not this season and not in this division.

Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard denied having an interest in keeping an eye on the other games after the Giants had already lost in Sunday's early window.

"We can only control what we can control, and our focus is on Dallas right now," Shepard said. "That's where my focus will be immediately."

Thankfully for the Giants, they haven't been paying all that much attention to capturing the NFC East. This has been at the behest of Judge, who has pounded it into his team from day one that it's most beneficial to be living in the moment and focused on what is next, not what happened in the past.

Judge, meanwhile, is seemingly equally concerned with the team's long-term future, which ironically might be better off with the better draft pick.

"Our focus is on getting ready for the Cowboys next week," Judge said Sunday. "We don't have any control over what happens with other teams, other games played today. We had that control in our first 15 games, the results of those games are what matter.

"In terms of where this team is headed and what we have been able to accomplish this year, in terms of the foundation, the culture -- we have improved a lot of playing across the board. A lot of players, a lot of development from young guys and new guys in this program. So no, the end result is where we are looking to get going in this program; I feel that we are on the right track and moving in the right direction."

That right track might still include at least one extra game, maybe more. That means more experience for quarterback Daniel Jones and this young team that could pay dividends in the future. The past two teams that reached the postseason with a losing record (the 2014 Panthers and 2010 Seahawks) each won in the wild-card round.

For a chance to join that crowd, the Giants must first overcome a Cowboys team that has beat them seven straight times. Then, they have to hope Washington (potentially without quarterback Alex Smith again?) loses.

Besides, some team not-so-deserving has to represent the NFC East in the playoffs.