Brian Daboll is set to sit an elephant between Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones in a team meeting and pursue movie reviews and game plan setups.
The Giants can clinch their first playoff spot in six years with a win in one of their final two regular season games — starting Sunday against the Colts — but their first-year head coach was an impenetrable wall of consistent messages Monday when asked about handling high stakes. No need to broach the subject that is on everyone’s mind, but no one wants to discuss it prematurely.
“We just try to control our own destiny every week trying to win a game,” Daboll said. “The objective is always to try to go 1-0, and that will be no different this week.”
The only indication of anything out of the routine was a tweet from Barkley urging fans to create home court advantage. He cleverly avoided mentioning the playoffs.
“Home Final at MetLife [Stadium] this Sunday, Giants fans NEED YOU!!! NEED YOU STRONG!! Merry Christmas,” Barkley wrote late Sunday night.
Daboll gave a minor concession while absorbing what he called repeated “body beatings” — the same question asked in various guises by different reporters — when asked about fan support. The Giants last played at home in the 2011 season finale, winning the NFC East on their way to a Super Bowl XLVI title.
“We work extremely hard every week to get a good product out in the field, and one of the reasons is our fan base,” Daboll said. “So, to play at home at the end of December [actually, Jan. 1] in an important match, it is important for us. I know it’s important to them. And we’ll do everything we can to be ready to go.
Oh, so this is an important game? Judging by the stoicism on Daboll’s face and in his voice, even the most skilled mathematicians of the playoff scenario couldn’t be sure.
“Thinking about what will happen in a week or [in] two weeks, or what happened five weeks ago, you learn from those things that happened in the past,” Daboll said. “And I’ve certainly watched over my years how different coaches do it and how different teams react. But every team is different. Every season is different. Heck, every week is different. So what I’ve learned – not just in this job, but every day – it’s just trying to win the day.
The Giants refused to treat a Dec. 18 game against Washington as a playoff game — even though the result offered a roughly 50% playoff chance, according to fivethirtyeight.com — because there were still paths to the playoffs after a loss. And they weren’t focused on a Saturday loss to the Vikings because other results around the NFL were also expected to happen. But this game has to be treated with playoff-like intensity because it’s a win-win, right?
“No, it’s our next game,” Daboll said. “I think everyone knows what you just said. But what we can control are the same things we try to control every week – making sure we’re prepared, ready to go, and doing our best.
Barkley’s feet say what his mouth doesn’t. He’s averaging 8.6 yards per carry with a touchdown and four first downs on 10 carries in the fourth quarter over the past two games, setting the tone for how to handle pressure.
“He runs hard,” Daboll said. “He makes good decisions with the ball and where to run it, and he’s a talented player. Good players have to play well, especially in the fourth quarter of tight games.
The Giants have a 91% chance of making the playoffs and could actually clinch even Sunday with a loss to the Colts if any of these three scenarios occur: Commanders and Seahawks lose; Commanders, Lions and Packers lose; the Lions, Seahawks and Packers lose. If the Giants lose and none of those three happen, then it’s do or die in Week 18 at the Eagles.
“I’m grateful for the position we’re in, but there’s a lot of work to be done,” Daboll said. “It starts this week, like every other week we’ve had.”
But what is that elephant doing over there?