Victor Cruz was in a restaurant on Christmas Eve when he found out the Giants made the playoffs.
“People were running up to me in the restaurant before I could even check the score and letting me know that we were in,” Cruz said.
Justin Pugh was at home with his family watching the Saints beat the Bucs on television.
“I had goosebumps when the Saints took that final kneel down and I knew we were going,” he said.
Rashad Jennings was on a plane flying home to Virginia for the holidays. He didn’t know he had made the playoffs for the first time in his eight-year career until he landed for a layover in Charlotte and saw “like a thousand texts — bing, bing, bing — all blowing up my phone . . . Hot damn!”
It was a very strange way for the Giants to achieve their biggest accomplishment of the season so far, scattered across the country, far away from each other. No team celebration. No collective moment of triumph.
“Obviously, you want it to happen after a game,” Jennings said. “It’d be nice if you won a game, beat a team, came in [to the locker room] and that solidified us going to the playoffs. Everybody rallying together. It didn’t happen that way.”
Instead, the Giants had a few days apart to digest the news. So when they finally did regroup on Tuesday for a walk-through practice and their first gathering as a playoff team, the mood was decidedly less festive than it could have been, say, in the postgame locker room last Thursday in Philadelphia had the Giants won there to clinch their spot in the postseason.
“The same,” rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard said of the atmosphere.
“Business as usual,” Pugh added.
The fact that the Giants had made the playoffs wasn’t even brought up, several players said, until Ben McAdoo addressed the team after their time on the field. He acknowledged the accomplishment, congratulated the players, then stressed the importance of heading into the wild card round as an “ascending” team.
“Obviously we’d love to go down there and play some good football and be ascending going into the playoffs,” Pugh said. “Getting that confidence, getting that mojo going, and getting hot during this time of the year, this is the best time to be hot.”
And that means beating Washington on Sunday.
That the Giants have no idea who they will play on either Jan. 7 or 8 in the wild-card round undoubtedly helps them focus on their regular-season finale. If they were locked in on, say, the Packers or the Lions, part of their minds would undoubtedly be wandering to that matchup. With four possible opponents and a resolution not likely to take place until hours after they have left the locker room at FedEx Field, there is no point in the Giants looking past Washington. There’s nothing there but mathematical percentages and speculation.
It also helps that they are facing a division rival, which is an easy game to get up for. Jennings said the Giants feel they “owe” a little something to Washington, the only team to beat the Giants at MetLife Stadium this season with a 29-27 win on Sept. 25. Pugh noted that it would be nice to knock Washington out of playoff contention with a win.
“We’re not their biggest fans, they’re not our biggest fans,” Pugh said. “To send them home would be good for us.”
It also would give the Giants a chance to celebrate together, a ritual they missed out on this weekend.
“We know we have another game, that’s the only focus right now, literally,” Jennings said. “But after that game, it’ll be a different energy.”
Consider the Possibilities
There are three games that will determine where the Giants play in the wild-card round of the playoffs on Jan. 7 or 8. The simplest equation is if the Seahawks lose to the 49ers, then the Giants will go to Seattle. Here are all of the possible permutations (barring ties):
Seahawks lose to 49ers = Giants at Seahawks
Seahawks beat 49ers + Falcons beat Saints + Packers beat Lions = Giants at Packers
Seahawks beat 49ers + Falcons beat Saints + Lions beat Packers = Giants at Lions
Seahawks beat 49ers + Falcons lose to Saints + Packers beat Lions = Giants at Packers
Seahawks beat 49ers + Falcons lose to Saints + Lions beat Packers = Giants at Falcons