How Giants-Commanders tie affects NFC East playoff odds

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It was a result that didn’t leave anyone happy. The New York Giants and Washington Commanders finished Sunday in a 20-20 tie that did little to differentiate the wild-card contenders.

“It sucks, obviously,” Giants running back Saquon Barkley said.

This was an important December game with playoff implications. The Giants (7-4-1) and Commanders (7-5-1) are vying for one of the NFC’s final wild-card spots.

The tie just left everyone’s heads spinning.

“I’m not going to lie. I have no clue,” said rookie outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux of how this affected the Giants’ playoff chances. “I have zero idea of how the playoff works. I’ll be figuring it out like you guys do.”

Well, New York came in with a half-game lead over Washington. It left with a half-game lead. In reality, not much changed.

The Commanders have a 60.1% chance of making the postseason at this point, according to ESPN Analytics. The Giants now have a 56.8% chance of breaking their five-year playoff drought.

Heading into the contest it was 63% for Washington to make the postseason, 59% for the Giants. So both teams’ chances dipped ever so slightly.

If there were a winner in Sunday’s contest, the loser would have seen a 40% drop in playoff probability. That would have been a significant shift.

But … there wasn’t. The Giants had the lead late in the fourth quarter against the Commanders. That is what made the tie all the more frustrating.

“I think we’re all pretty disappointed with the result,” quarterback Daniel Jones said. “Certainly not the one we were looking for.”

Jones made it sound almost like a loss. But it wasn’t, considering the effect it had on the Giants' playoff chances.

“It’s not a loss,” he said. “It’s not a win either. I think you understand that part of it but just disappointed that we could’ve played better, could’ve taken advantage of some situations and won the game. That’s the disappointing part. It’s not a loss, you know, I think we understand that. We’ll look to improve going forward.”

The strangest part of it all was that Giants coach Brian Daboll got conservative after preaching all season about not playing scared. He decided against going for it on a fourth-and-3 from the Washington 45-yard line with under two minutes remaining in overtime. ESPN Analytics had the win probability being 55.3% to go for it and 52.3% to punt. Daboll went with the more conservative approach.

It was contradictory to everything he said after going for the 2-point conversion and the win in the final seconds of a season-opening 21-20 win in Tennessee.

“Well, I think it’s later in the season,” Daboll said. “And I think you have those conversations leading up to games about a wide variety of things that could happen, could not happen. To punt it and put them down there, I thought our defense had a chance to keep them down there and maybe get the ball back with, call it, 35 seconds -- somewhere around there, somewhere around midfield and give ourselves another chance rather than if you don’t get it and then they kick a field goal, and they were going with the wind, so that’s the decision I made.”

In fairness, Daboll and the Giants did get the ball back at their own 43-yard line in the final seconds on Sunday. However, they only had 28 seconds left. They reached the Washington 40-yard line and had a 58-yard Graham Gano field goal attempt fall short as time expired.

It was still a strange explanation from Daboll. Are we sure this is the same coach that was on the field in Tennessee?

“We’re going to be aggressive,” Daboll said after that Week 1 win. “That’s what we want to do. That’s the mindset I want the players to have.”

They weren't in this instance with so much at stake. The result left nobody happy. On both sides.

Both teams had opportunities to win the game in regulation and overtime. There were five possessions in the extra session.

None of them produced any points. And now the two teams meet again in two weeks in what will be a massive matchup.

The loser of that game will be in serious trouble. The likelihood is the two teams will have identical 7-5-1 records by then because the Giants opened as 6.5-point underdogs next Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium.

“You go out there, you wanna compete and you want to win,” Barkley said. “When you put your bodies on the line and come out with a tie, it doesn’t feel good for either team.”

Especially when it does little to help your chances of reaching the playoffs for the first time in your career.