Hakeem Nicks is in the final year of his contract, and could use a change of scenery. Credit: Getty Images
The end can't come soon enough for the Giants — not to mention their opponents this Sunday.
The Giants and Redskins both fell out of playoff contention weeks ago, making Week 17's contest one of the few around the league with nothing on the line for either team.
What is on the line are many jobs on both sides of the ball, and both sidelines.
Three things to watch for ...
1. Kissing (up to) Cousins
The quarterback to watch on Sunday likely isn't Giants starter Eli Manning or Redskins future starter Robert Griffin III. Instead, it's the current starter for Washington — Kirk Cousins. If the Skins do keep Griffin as starter in 2014, as they have said, Cousins could be on the trade market this offseason. And he can cement his status as an in-demand arm against the Giants.
Cousins filled in admirably last season for an injured Griffin, and is now playing with head coach Mike Shanahan benching his brittle starter. Cousins is 0-2 against the Falcons and Cowboys in his two starts, but has decent, if not spectacular, numbers. He is 50-of-81 (61.7 percent) for 578 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions as a starter. Cousins presents a more typical pro-style offense as opposed to the spread-option attack of Griffin.
"Well, the natural is they’re not featuring the option," Coughlin said. "I’m not telling you that they wouldn’t run it, but you don’t see that. You see the traditional two-back runs. You see the two-tight end, two receiver runs. You see the three-wide runs. They’re diversified. They have some four wide receivers. They have a number of receivers that play and have different responsibilities and they are throwing the ball a lot."
Plenty of general managers will be watching this game wondering if Cousins will be their future signal caller.
2. Rueben sandwiched?
One of the players who has impressed the most in a disappointing season for the Giants' offense is wide receiver Rueben Randle. The second-year wideout leads the team with six touchdowns receptions despite limited playing time until the Giants were eliminated from playoff contention.
But there was bad news on Randle this week. The receiver is dealing with a knee injury, one Coughlin said he "has some issues with" from time to time. Coughlin downplayed it on Thursday after Randle didn't practice, but Randle was again on the injury report Friday after another DNP. The head coach admitted Randle was still sore on Friday and Louis Murphy took most of the first-team reps.
That's bad news because with Hakeem Nicks being a free agent this offseason, the team may move on and focus on Randle as a starter opposite Victor Cruz. Sunday's game would give general manager Jerry Reese one more opportunity to see Randle in a starting role.
3. Goodbye is always hard
The talk at the Giants' facility on Friday was largely focused on two free agent mainstays who could be playing in their final games for Big Blue: captain Justin Tuck and Nicks. Tuck's five-year, $30 million deal runs out this season and he's very much in limbo between returning and venturing off for greener pastures like fellow linemate Osi Umenyiora did last year. But whereas Umenyiora's departure was a fait accompli, Tuck appears more likely to return and he is already aiming to be better in 2014.
"I’m looking ahead," Tuck said earlier this week. "Anytime you go into a season like this, you always take time out at the end of the year to go over the goods, the bads and the ugly. I’m looking forward to getting back to the top of the heap."
Nicks, who turns 26 in a few weeks, went through contract negotiations last offseason and mysteriously missed offseason workouts. His fellow receiver, Cruz, got a six-year, $45.8 million deal that locks him up with New York until 2019. Nicks would likely take something in the same range, but he's been much more banged up over his career than Cruz. He's never played 16 games in a season and while his injuries have mostly been nagging problems his recent play hasn't inspired confidence either. He has zero touchdowns in 2013 and just 1,538 yards combined the past two seasons after back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2010 and 2011. His last touchdown catch was Dec. 9, 2012 against the Saints. He's had just four 100-yard games in 28 games the last two seasons combined. He had four over a five-game stretch in 2010.
"Like I always say, we know that I want to be here," Nicks said Friday. "I understand the business side of things. I’m sure we’re going to talk. We’re going to talk next week from my understanding."
"It’s tough to think about because Hakeem is such a fixture here for me for so many years and it’s tough to think about, but obviously I understand the business side of it," Cruz said on Friday. "I just went through it myself a year ago. I understand exactly what he’s going through. Hopefully we can see him back. That’s definitely the plan that I want to see in my book, but obviously you have to deal with the business side of it and he has to take care of his family and do what he wants to do."
Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter@MetroNYSports.