The New York Giants have lost just one of their past nine games. They’re almost guaranteed to finish in the top wild card spot in the NFC and travel to Atlanta, Detroit or Green Bay in the first round—all winnable games. If they do win in the wild card round, they likely play Dallas in the divisional round—a team they’ve beaten twice this year. Therefore, it isn’t too far-fetched to say that the Giants may be in the NFC title game, which means it isn’t too far-fetched to say they reach, or even win, the Super Bowl.
Indeed, that line of thinking has been taken by many this week—often paired with the idea of a Super Bowl XLII/XLIV rematch against the Patriots, a dream for FOX executives. Despite the relative feasibility of it, I—a Giants fan—don’t see it happening. I don’t see them beating Dallas in the second round either—even beating Atlanta or Green Bay in the first round seems like a stretch. The reason is simple: the New York Giants are not that good a football team.
Let’s look at DVOA. The Giants are 11th in both the regular and weighted versions of the category, 21st in offense, third in defense and 17th in special teams. That may seem low, but take a deeper dive into the numbers and it looks high. New York has just 8.4 estimated wins according to Football Outsiders—a number they’ve outperformed by nearly two full games—because they’ve been extremely lucky in close games. Back in Week 1, Terrance Williams failed to run out of bounds, ending the game and handing New York a 1-point victory. In Week 2, it took a game-ending field goal after a rare drive down the field to eke out a 3-point victory against New Orleans and in Week 6; it took a 66-yard catch-and-run from Odell Beckham and a defensive stand to win against the Ravens. I could go on, but it would get tedious (if it isn’t already). The point is that the Giants have won just two games this season by more than one score: last week against Detroit and Week 12 against the (winless) Browns.
If those 8.4 estimated wins suddenly seem high now, it’s worth noting that Pro Football Reference’s Expected Win-Loss metric pegs the Giants at 7.7-6.3, which, rounded up, would tie them with playoff hopefuls like Green Bay and Baltimore.
Furthermore, their offensive weakness is glaring. It’s easy to look at Eli Manning’s struggles and shrug them off given how well the defense is playing, but to contend for a Super Bowl with a bad offense, you need a historically good defense. For context, the Broncos were 25th in offensive DVOA last season but led the league with a -25.8 percent defensive DVOA. This year, the Giants are 21st in offensive DVOA, but rank third with a -14.3 percent defensive DVOA—that’s over 10 percent lower than last year’s Broncos, a team that still needed an extraordinary amount of luck to even advance to the Super Bowl.
Having a good offense matters—a lot—and the Giants don’t, in any way, shape or form. Despite indisputable talent around him, Eli Manning has been consistently terrible, ranking 19th in DYAR, 20th in DVOA and 26th in QBR with a 50.6 PFF grade to boot. More often than not, the team has relied on the occasional big play from Odell Beckham, like the 8-yard slant he took to the house against the Cowboys, for points—a strategy that is sure to fail eventually. They haven’t been able to run the ball either—as a team, the Giants average a horrific 3.4 yards per carry, good for 30th in the league. It’s possible to win with defense, but the offense has to contribute somehow and this offense hasn’t. Over their last four wins—against the Bears, Browns, Cowboys and Lions, who rank 18th, 32nd, 20th and 31st in defensive DVOA—the Giants have scored 19 points on average. Last year, the Broncos averaged 22.1875 per game with a significantly better defense to compensate.
Take all of this into account—along with factors like Ben McAdoo’s suspect game management—and it’s hard to be optimistic about the Giants. Even after a great regular season, the fact of the matter is that they will probably crash out in the first round.
Week 16 Picks
Vegas Insider’s consensus lines are used. Home teams listed in CAPS.
Giants -2.5 over EAGLES: I don’t like the idea of Carson Wentz on a short week against one of the best defenses in football. Philly’s offensive line is capable, but the Ravens decimated them last week and I don’t love the Eagles’ chances against the Olivier Vernon-led Giants pass rush. Given Philly’s lack of skill position players, this is also the perfect game for Janoris Jenkins to miss. This still could be close—it’s Thursday night and the Giants’ offense hasn’t exactly been inspiring—but if the Giants are really contenders, this is a win and a cover.
BEARS +3.5 over Redskins: Don’t look now, but Matt Barkley has an 82.6 PFF grade this year. Throw in Jordan Howard’s incredible running ability and Washington’s defense—26th in weighted DVOA—and the Bears, um, might be able to move the ball at home. I’m still worried about the Redskins if they make the playoffs because their offense is dynamic enough to win them games, but getting there won’t be easy—especially after came out flat on Monday night against a beaten down Panthers squad.
BILLS -3.5 over Dolphins: Tyrod Taylor hasn’t been great this year, but calls to get rid of him are unwarranted at best. He has a respectable 105 DYAR, ranks 12th in QBR and 13th in PFF grading among QBs. It’s not like he’s lighting the world on fire, but the guy is capable—especially when you throw in the fact that, for most of the year, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin were his best two receivers. If the Bills make him available, the Jets, 49ers, Browns, Jaguars, Broncos, Texans and Cardinals should all jump at the chance to have him.
Falcons -2.5 over PANTHERS: The Falcons are fourth in regular and weighted DVOA and first in offensive DVOA. Defense is an issue, but Vic Beasley has turned into an impact pass rusher and Deion Jones has a good Defensive Rookie of the Year case. Nearly all of their losses have been in close games as well—nobody’s blown them out and they’ll probably regress. In other words, this team is a Super Bowl contender and shouldn’t have trouble beating a Panthers team that’s out of it.
Vikings +6.5 over PACKERS: I buy Green Bay’s offensive resurgence, but not their defensive resurgence. In the last four weeks, they’ve played Brock Osweiler, Carson Wentz, Matt Barkley and Russell Wilson. Wilson is the only one of those four with any sort of pedigree and he had his worst game of the year against Green Bay. It’s easy to dismiss Sam Bradford, but pointing to him as the cause of Minnesota’s struggles is flat-out wrong. If their offensive line holds up—far from a guarantee—they will move the ball. That should at least earn them a cover.
PATRIOTS -16.5 over Jets: Instead of firing Todd Bowles, maybe the Jets should look at getting rid of Mike Maccagnan, the general manager. The biggest moves he’s made are bringing in Buster Skrine (an unmitigated disaster), Darrelle Revis (one of the worst contracts in football), Ryan Fitzpatrick (Ryan Fitzpatrick), Antonio Cromartie (yikes), and Matt Forte (played well this year but is 31 with two years left on his contract). He also exercised Sheldon Richardson’s option for 2017, ignoring his constant disciplinary issues and failing to foresee a major dip in play, and gave Muhammad Wilkerson a 5-year megadeal (Wilkerson has a 40.9 PFF grade this year, 117th among edge rushers). Drafting Leonard Williams was nice, but there wasn’t a single person who has ever watched football that wouldn’t have drafted him in that spot. And while it may be too early to pass judgement on some of his other picks—Devin Smith, Lorenzo Mauldin, Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins to name a few—Maccagnan drafted Bryce Petty in the 4th round, then drafted Christian Hackenberg in the second round the next year. If either of them starts for a team that comes remotely close to a winning season, it would be shocking. So, why exactly is their pressure on Todd Bowles instead of the person who built this horrific roster?
Titans -5 over JAGUARS: I have yet to see an adequate explanation of why people are assuming Dave Caldwell doesn’t draft a quarterback this season. Where is it written that a general manager must stay with the first quarterback he drafted until he’s fired? Blake Bortles is terrible—not drafting a quarterback would be committing negligence—and Caldwell’s other moves have generally been fine (if anything, he’s drafted well outside of Bortles). Caldwell has eyes. He can see that the Jaguars need a quarterback, as can anyone else with or without sight. Given that they will be drafting high, the Jaguars will probably draft a quarterback.
Chargers -6 over BROWNS: In lieu of actual Browns analysis, let's set an over/under for the attendance at First Energy Stadium on Sunday. The Browns reported attendance of over 60,000 for their last home game (any picture of the stadium at the time will contradict this number), so let’s put the over/under for reported attendance at 52,500 and the over/under for actual attendance at 12.5.
Colts +3.5 over RAIDERS: These teams are built similarly: high-powered offense compensating for a bad defense. Oakland has had more success because their offensive line is great and their coaching is much better than Indy’s, but neither team is going to have trouble scoring in this one. That makes it a winnable game for the Colts—don’t forget that they don’t just have an offense that can go toe-to-toe with the Raiders; they also have a better kicker. If nothing else, they should at least cover.
Buccaneers +3 over SAINTS: The Bucs are playing for their playoff lives, the Saints are playing for nothing. There’s no one on the Saints’ roster capable of covering Mike Evans and they’re 25th in DVOA against tight ends, so expect Cameron Brate to have a nice game as well. Even with Jameis Winston being subpar at times, I’ve been impressed with the Bucs over recent weeks. With so much on the line—their playoff chances drop to 15 percent with a loss, per FiveThirtyEight—Tampa Bay should win this game outright.
SEAHAWKS -8 over Cardinals: With a win against the vastly inferior Cardinals, Seattle’s chances of a first-round bye rocket up to 94 percent, per FiveThirtyEight. That’s enough incentive to come out with full force at home and cover.
RAMS -3.5 over 49ers: I’m tempted to leave this space blank because there just isn’t anything to say about these teams. If you pay money to attend this game, it’s time to reevaluate things.
Bengals +1.5 over TEXANS: The Texans are 30th in DVOA, below the Rams, 49ers, Jaguars and Bears. They just benched Brock Osweiler for a guy who couldn’t hold down a starting job at places like Pitt and Rutgers. Their coach makes an art out of being a moron—did you know that Bill O’Brien accepted a 5-yard penalty that negated an 18-yard gain two weeks ago? Any time this team is favored, bet against them.
Ravens +5 over STEELERS: Baltimore can win at the line of scrimmage, pressure Ben Roethlisberger, slow down Le’Veon Bell and contain Antonio Brown enough to cover—and maybe even eke out a win. Even on the road, the weather will favor a Ravens team that leans on its defense. I don’t buy Pittsburgh’s defense either—against a great offensive line, their pass rush will wilt and the secondary will struggle to find a good matchup against Steve Smith. In a must-win game, I think the Ravens pull it out.
CHIEFS -3.5 over Broncos: If you’re going to bet on a team other than New England to win the AF, it should still be Kansas City at 15/2, per Vegas Insider. One game doesn’t change the fact that this is still a great defense, a great special teams and an offense playing better than it normally does. There’s still good value in this bet, but it won’t last if (and when) they close out the year strong.
COWBOYS -7 over Lions: This could be a resoundingly dominant performance by Dallas’ offense. Detroit is 31st in defensive DVOA—they have no line and their best defensive back, Darius Slay, got hurt last week. The Cowboys should score at will—there is no position at which they do not have an advantage. Maybe the Lions can keep pace, but I doubt it.
Last Week: 4-11-1
All stats are from pro-football-reference.com, footballoutsiders.com or profootballfocus.com unless otherwise noted
 If they play Detroit, however, they should get by.
 The only excuse is that it was on 1st and 20, but the logic for that is in the same room as Andy Reid saying the Chiefs didn’t go no-huddle when they were down by two scores with 10 minutes left in the playoffs last year so New England wouldn’t have time to score again.