Daniel Jones of the Giants is sacked in the first half by...

Daniel Jones of the Giants is sacked in the first half by Daron Payne of the Commanders at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The scent of unfinished business still lingered around East Rutherford on Monday afternoon as the Giants continued to process a tie that felt like a loss. But even as players reckoned with squandered chances and pivotal mistakes, there was a mostly unspoken truth — a loss Sunday would have had a significant negative impact on their playoff hopes, and a tie against the Commanders still gives them a better than 50% shot.

It's a big-picture thing — the type of big-picture thing that players and coaches avoid talking about lest it seem as if they’re looking too far ahead. But with the Giants jostling with the Commanders and likely the Seahawks for a wild-card spot and their first playoff berth since 2016, context matters, Julian Love said. 

And frankly, it’s pretty hard to ignore, even with the juggernaut Eagles ahead of them: The Giants' Week 15 rematch against the Commanders was promptly moved to the Sunday Night Football slot. Everyone is thinking playoff picture — especially broadcast partners who stand to make money off that sort of thing.

“I think as a leader of this team, I’ve got to have some sort of a big-picture mindset on things,” Love said. “But for the day-to-day —- for guys who haven’t been in this position, for guys who are looking to me for a way to feel about this hunt and these last five games -— I try to keep it as minimal as possible and kind of focus on guys just getting better each week . . .  We wanted to win, obviously, but the captain in me was kind of gauging and scoping out our energy and the things that I thought we needed to get back to. We need to keep doing that and it’ll fall our way.”

That type of internal juggling will continue to be necessary with the Giants  facing their first bit of true adversity. After starting the season 6-1, they’re 1-3-1 in their last five games and face the second-hardest remaining schedule in the NFL, according to Tankathon — starting with the 11-1 Eagles on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Brian Daboll is facing significant criticism for really the first time this year. The offense is struggling, and his conservative approach against the Commanders especially rankled those who believe playing not to lose is a loss in itself. His decision to punt on third-and-3 from the Washington 45 in overtime has been juxtaposed against the gutsy call to go for a two-point conversion against the Titans in their Week 1 win. Of course, the stakes were different then.

“I’ve talked to those [analytics people], I would say, Saturday and Friday relative to certain strategies as the season ends,” Daboll said Monday. “So that’s when I’ll sit down with those guys. We tied the game. We obviously would like to win the game. But we move on and we get ready for Philly.”

Losing Sunday would have had the Giants' playoff probability drop about 40%, according to ESPN Analytics. A tie barely cost them anything: Their chances are around 57%. That said, considering they're rounding out the season against the Eagles, Commanders (7-5-1), Vikings (10-2), Colts (4-8) and Eagles again, there are plenty who believed the fourth-down conversion attempt was a chance worth taking.

But that’s in the past now, and Love said focusing on the immediate present is helpful. There’s no way to change what happened Sunday, but they can learn from it.

“It felt like a loss to a lot of us because we’re competitors,” he said. “I think we just chip away at it and grind away at it. We’ll get another chance against them. We have an opportunity in front of us with the Eagles . . . If you’re running any organization, it’s important that you keep a majority of people on that short-term focus, short-term goals. Then it creates a long-term effect.”

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