Former Giants tight end and current commentator Howard Cross said this week that the preoccupation with resting starters in Week 17 was a product of the media. He said players, coaches and general managers don’t fixate on the perceived importance of protecting players from possible injury. It’s the media who make it an issue.
I don’t think it’d be possible to thoroughly track the genesis of this fixation and whether it stemmed from teams or the media; but it’s obvious the fixation is juvenile and – dare I say it – kind of wimpy. For all the handwringing we have seen over the years about whether teams should rest players for the postseason – an exercise we seemed to go through yearly with the Peyton Manning-era Colts – I can’t recall a single influential player who was significantly injured in a Week 17 game to seriously hamper his team’s postseason aspirations.
I might be wrong (because that happens a lot), but no player comes to mind. Not a single one. Sure, David Carr of the Raiders broke his leg last week and will likely miss the entire postseason, but that was in a meaningful Week 16 game as Oakland continues to fight for its postseason seeding.
Some Giants fans believe the team should rest its starters this week. Get real. You want the team to rest Eli Manning, the most durable QB in the NFL, and go with Josh Johnson? No. Because what happens in the more likely event that Josh Johnson gets hurt? Do you then put in Manning? The bottom line: you don’t play scared. Sure, you don’t want to leave guys out there if they’re dinged up or if the game is out of hand. But you can’t put your starters in bubble wrap. Besides, I have no interest in watching backups.
The Giants would seem to have nothing to play for in this week’s game against the Redskins. New York is locked in as the No. 5 seed and will have to go on the road to play at Green Bay, Detroit, Atlanta or Seattle. That said, the Redskins have everything to play for. They need to win and to get some help from others to reach the playoffs. In short, the Giants could just step on Washington’s throat. You don’t think Odell Beckham wants to send Josh Norman home for the postseason? Count on it.
A lot has changed since these two divisional rivals squared off at MetLife Stadium in September, when Washington won 29-27 to hand the Giants their only home loss of the season.
Then: The Giants came into the game undefeated (2-0) and Washington came into the game winless (0-2).
Now: New York is going to the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and Washington is 8-6-1 with a decent chance of reaching the postseason again.
Then: The Giants had 118 yards in penalties, center Weston Richburg got thrown out of the game, Odell Beckham was literally crying on the sideline at the end of the game, and a frustrated Beckham threw his helmet into the kicking net.
Now: Beckham and the Giants have been relatively disciplined and Beckham has thankfully stopped using the kicking net as a prop.
Then: The game basically ended when Eli Manning threw his second fourth quarter interception.
Now: We still see glimpse of bad Eli from time to time.
Then: Orleans Darkwa scored on a 2-yard run.
Now: Darkwa has been on injured reserve since the end of November and has probably played his last game as a Giant.
Then: Olivier Vernon registered his first sack of the season.
Now: Vernon has totally lived up to the huge free agent contract he signed last offseason.
Then: Most people figured the Giants’ offense would be great and the defense would be mediocre.
Now: The Giants’ defense has allowed the fewest touchdown in the NFL (24) and the offense has been inconsistent all season.