The Giants wrap up their disappointing season against a familiar foe that also endured a brutal campaign. And while the Eagles (6-9) got a head start on the Black Monday firings, canning Chip Kelly, Big Blue is still processing whether to let their venerable head coach go as well.
Sunday could be Tom Coughlin’s final game, as the Giants (6-9) will yet again be home for the playoffs for the fourth-straight season. And while the franchise’s brass loves and appreciates Coughlin and his two Super Bowls, the fact that a New York team hasn’t been relevant in years can’t possibly sit well with the suits.
Literally an old ball coach, Coughlin, 69, has done his best to shield his team from the drama and uncertainty of his job status, noting that his “young men” shouldn’t be concerned with his plight. The players, almost to a man, though, have gone on the record saying they want their coach to return, so Sunday’s tilt could be a nice way to show that appreciation – or a nice parting gift.
Metro takes a look at the key storylines, as these bitter rivals get to mercifully end this bitter season together (FOX, 1p.m.).
What to watch for:
1. The return of Odell.
Almost as famous for his electrifying play on the field as he is for his demonstrative demeanor, wideout Odell Beckham Jr. makes his return to the lineup following his one-game suspension for his antics in the Carolina Panthers game. Beckham, who was baited into his abhorrent behavior by Carolina, said he’s learned from his transgressions – but at the same time, he won’t change his feisty mannerisms, and instead will change the way he deals with antagonistic behavior.
“I don’t think I’m going to change the way that I play, but I think I’ll change the actions that were on the field,” he said. “It’s not what we should be doing [and] it’s not what I would want to represent the Giants as.”
He’ll get the chance to redeem his behavior against an Eagles secondary that has been torched at times this season. Philadelphia has allowed 280.8 passing yards per game, including 7.1 yards passing per attempt. And even with his one-game hiatus, Beckham has posted amazing numbers (91 catches for 1,396 yards, and 13 touchdowns) and has averaged almost 100 yards (99.7) and nearly a touchdown per game.
The Eagles may want to employ Carolina’s method of stopping him, because physically there’s no one on that roster that can even slow down the thrilling wideout.
2. New Year resolution?
The word “finish” was said about a thousand times this season by Coughlin, but sadly his team rarely heeded that advice. The Giants started the season on a historical pace for last-minute failures, as they began the season 0-2 after blowing double-digit fourth-quarter leads to the Cowboys and Falcons. That trend continued as many as four more times this season, effectively ending any hope of a winning record, let alone a division title.
“Find a way to win the close ones,” Coughlin said emphatically when asked his thoughts about this season’s primary lesson.
He added he still thinks he and the team still have that “competitive spirit” to end the season on a high note and find a way to come out on top, should the game be close down the stretch.
It would be nice if the Giants were able to pull out a tight one on Sunday. But knowing them and the precedence that’s been set, Big Blue fans shouldn’t be too surprised if their squad sends their beloved coach out on a low-point via another last-second heartbreaker.
The team around him may not be any good – save for Beckham, of course – but Eli Manning has put on a passing clinic this season. He’s been so good that people now refer to him as the good Manning, as he’s been on a tear all season, and finally stepped out of the statistical shadows of big brother Peyton. While there’s been a dark cloud around the team and facilities this season, Manning has been that rare ray of sunshine fighting through the darkness. He’s put up career numbers (4,134 yards passing and a career-high 33 passing touchdowns), and save for a couple of clunkers (last week’s 49-17 clunker in Minnesota comes to mind), the once-maligned signal caller has been one of the few bright spots. He’ll look to continue that roll and pad his stats against a Philadelphia secondary that has seen better days. They’ve allowed 45 points (twice) and 40 points in three of its last six games, so there’s no reason that Big Blue’s high-powered duo of Manning-to-Beckham can’t terrorize them as well. Manning was dominated the last time they met (24-of-38 for 189 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions) in a 27-7 Week 6 defeat. So, while he would never admit it, he must be frothing at the matchup, and the chance at redemption.
Big Blue notes:
All week Coughlin has been trying to deflect talk about his future, but on Thursday, his retort regarding his situation was rather cryptic. “Do I want to come back? I don’t know if that’s a great question right now,” Coughlin said when asked about his thoughts on next season. Only co-owner John Mara truly knows Coughlin’s fate.