Jonathan Casillas knows better than to express a preference.
He’s been on two Super Bowl-winning teams in his career and understands that the key to getting there is not having a concrete route but being able to adjust to the curves and pitfalls that spring up along the way.
So when the questions about the Giants’ wild-card game inevitably come up this week — Who? Where? When? — Casillas will just wait for the answers to come on their own.
“You have to take whatever comes to you,” Casillas said. “I feel like if you say something like, ‘I don’t want to play outside’ or ‘I would rather play indoors, in the South, or we played them and they’re a familiar opponent,’ then . . . If you wanted to be indoors and then you end up outdoors in the cold in Green Bay, then you might feel like, ‘Oh, snap!’ It’s like you’re mentally defeating yourself before it happens.”
The Giants probably will not know their wild-card opponent until late Sunday night. That’s when the Lions and Packers play for the NFC North title. The Giants could play either of those teams the following week, or they could be at Atlanta or Seattle. It all depends on how Sunday unfolds.
The only thing certain is that the Giants will be the fifth seed in the NFC and will be at the lowest-seeded division champion on Jan. 7 or 8.
“Whoever we get, we [should] embrace it with open arms and just be thankful that we had an opportunity to play in the game, no matter where it’s at,” Casillas said.
Eli Manning echoed those thoughts.
“You don’t really have a say in it, so you just find out who it’s going to be,” he said.
The quarterback did admit that he will peek at the scoreboards at FedEx Field as the Giants play Washington on Sunday afternoon.
“You’re going to want to know who you’re playing in the playoffs,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of scenarios, I know you’re not going to know until next week, so I think it’s just a matter of when certain teams are playing next week and when everything will be decided.”
The Giants already have faced two of the possible hosts this season. They lost at Green Bay in October and beat the Lions at MetLife Stadium earlier this month. From a preparation standpoint, Manning suggested that playing the Lions again would be slightly better.
“I guess if it’s a team you’ve played recently, then you have a little idea of what their scheme is and about certain players and whatnot,” he said. “But however it works out, we’ll be well-prepared and we’ll get adjusted and have a good plan.”
Just as they now are focused on Washington. It’s a mathematically meaningless game for the Giants, but they seem to have a lot to prove before they step into the postseason for the first time since the 2011 season. It’s also a division rival to whom they lost in September.
“It’s not about just getting into the playoffs,” Manning said. “The mindset is to come back to work this week and finish the regular season strong and feel like we have a good thing going into the playoffs.”
Wherever that takes them.
A Giants playoff walk-through
There are four possible opponents for the Giants in the wild-card round Jan. 7 or 8. A quick look at them all along with the most direct path to face each of them (there are other permutations):
Atlanta (10-5): The Giants haven’t faced the Falcons since early last year, so this would be a bit of an unknown opponent. Their last run to a Super Bowl began with a 24-2 wild-card win over the Falcons at MetLife Stadium. Don’t think Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have forgotten about that one. Most direct path to Atlanta: Falcons lose to Saints, Seahawks beat 49ers, Lions win NFC North.
Detroit (9-5): The Giants defense dominated the Lions in a 17-6 win Dec. 18, but that was aided a bit by a chilly, damp day in New Jersey. If they meet in the wild-card round, it’ll be inside cozy Ford Field, where Matthew Stafford has put up MVP-like numbers. The only postseason meeting between the two storied franchises was in the 1935 NFL Championship Game, won by the Lions, 26-7. Most direct path to Detroit: Lions lose at Cowboys in Week 16, Lions beat Packers in Week 17, Falcons beat Saints, Seahawks beat 49ers.
Green Bay (9-6): It seems as if every successful playoff run for the Giants has to go through Lambeau at some point. In 2007, the Giants won the NFC title there; in 2011, a divisional-round game. The Giants have already visited the historic stadium this season and were handed a 23-16 loss Oct. 9. It promises to be much colder this time (if there is a this time). Most direct path to Green Bay: Packers beat Lions, Seahawks beat 49ers.
Seattle (9-5-1): The Giants haven’t faced the Seahawks since 2014 and have lost three straight against them. CenturyLink Field is known as one of the toughest road environments in the NFL with its loud crowd and potential for cold and precipitation. It’s also home to a team that is making its fifth straight playoff appearance and has won at least one playoff game in each of the past four years. Most direct path to Seattle: Seahawks lose to 49ers