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Giants offense looking for strong outing in Week 17

Wide receiver Victor Cruz of the New York

Wide receiver Victor Cruz of the New York Giants makes a catch against cornerback Nolan Carroll of the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Dec. 22, 2016, in Philadelphia, Pa. Credit: Getty Images / Al Bello

For all the griping and complaining about the offense, Mike Sullivan wants to remind everyone that the Giants have won 10 games this year and are going to the playoffs.

“We didn’t win the lottery or eat all the Cracker Jacks to get our prize to get in the playoffs,” the offensive coordinator said this past week. “We earned our spot and so now we’ve got to take it to that next level.”

That starts Sunday against Washington. About all the Giants have left to prove this season is that they can score, and this is their last chance to do so in the regular season. That undoubtedly plays into Ben McAdoo’s decision to play his starters and build some momentum in a game in which he could easily and without argument rest them for next weekend’s much more important wild-card game.

So what does Sullivan want to see from his beleaguered offense?

“I would like to see us have a consistent game, where we show improvement and put ourselves in a position to be ready for the playoffs,” he said. “That’s really what we’re looking for. We’ve had flashes of it offensively. There’s been times where we’ve looked great. There’s times when we’ve really hurt ourselves, haven’t had the consistency we need . . . A consistent, complete game would be great for us to see on Sunday.”

Despite the struggles, Sullivan said the objectives and goals for the offense have not changed from Week 1 to now.

“There are things that are frustrating to all of us as coaches, the players are frustrated, too, because we do see [on video] where we’re so close,” Sullivan said. “It’s a frustration, but it’s a healthy frustration. It’s not one where there’s desperation. ‘Oh, woe is us, what are we going to do?’ It’s more of a ‘Hey, you know what? We have it. Let’s just keep grinding, let’s just keep scratching, clawing, fighting, and it’s going to come’ . . . We know that there’s potential there and we’re working hard to get it fixed.”

How good can Giants’ defense be?

The answer, if you ask coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, will always be: “Better.”

That’s been his response from last year, when he took over the worst defense in the league, to now, when the Giants have allowed the fewest offensive touchdowns in the NFL.

“The goal was to be better today than we were yesterday,” he said this past week. “Honestly, that’s the truth. That’s not coachspeak, that’s how it’s been. I said that same thing again this past Tuesday when we met with them, to work forward, just worry about today and let’s be better today than we were yesterday. If you do that in anything in life and can accomplish that, if you can actually be that every day, then you can be pretty good at anything.”

Right now, the Giants are pretty good at defensive football, even if Spagnuolo doesn’t want his players to recognize it.

“There are some ups and downs and there is some work to do,” he said. “We’re not nearly where we want to be, in my opinion. All I can go off is the last game. We didn’t win the last game and we didn’t play good enough defense to win the last game.”

The Giants allowed 17 offensive points to the Eagles in a 24-19 loss in which they had a goal-line stand and gave the ball back to the offense with a chance to win the game twice in the final five minutes. Sounds like something most teams would take any week. Not the Giants.

“For us,” Spagnuolo said, “we’re working on that.”

Cruz cruising now

Since coming away from the Steelers game with zero targets, Victor Cruz has seen 19 passes come his way and he has caught 10 of them for 117 yards.

“I’m just getting the ball thrown my way, man, trying to be a valve for Eli [Manning] and get myself open,” Cruz said. “It felt good to catch the rock and make some plays.”

He also has lined up more in the slot in those games than he had for most of the year. Rookie Sterling Shepard spent most of the season playing that inside position, where Cruz once dominated. Since his return at the start of this season, though, Cruz mostly played outside. Until recently.

“It feels like home again,” Cruz said. “We’ll see how it goes. It’s going to be the same kind of remedy for this week, as well, getting inside for a series or two, and we’ll see what comes of it.”

Dodgeball, anyone?

Landon Collins is a Pro Bowl safety for the first time in his career, but if he winds up at the event, he might have to brush up on another sport. One of the Pro Bowl activities this season will be a dodgeball game, and Collins said he hasn’t played the sport since middle school.

“I appreciate the heads up,” he said when told about having to work on that possibility.

Collins said he thinks Odell Beckham Jr., a fellow Pro Bowler, would be the Giants’ best dodgeball player. But he also said he could give the receiver a run for the title.

“He has the big hands and he can dodge the ball at the different speeds and angles,” Collins said of Beckham. “But I have quickness, too, so I can dodge his balls.”

Targets for Beckham

Ray Flaherty caught 21 passes for a league-high 350 yards for the Giants in 1932. No Giants player has led the NFL in receiving yards since then, but Odell Beckham Jr. has a chance to do it this year and end the drought.

Beckham enters Sunday with 1,323 receiving yards, second in the NFL behind T.Y. Hilton of the Colts (1,353) and just ahead of Julio Jones of the Falcons (1,313). A productive game from Beckham could land him at the top of the list. He also needs 128 yards against Washington to top the 1,450 receiving yards he posted last year. Victor Cruz’s 1,536 receiving yards in 2011 is the single-season franchise record.

Magic numbers

4: Catches needed by Odell Beckham Jr. to reach 100 and become only the second Giant to reach that plateau. Steve Smith set the franchise record with 107 catches in 2009.

1992: The last season when a non-kicker led the Giants in scoring (running back Rodney Hampton had 14 touchdowns for 84 points). Beckham leads the Giants this season with 60 points, ahead of Sterling Shepard (48) and Robbie Gould (43), and likely will end that streak. The last Giants receiver to lead the team in scoring was Homer Jones with 84 points in 1967 on 13 receiving TDs and one rushing TD.

25: The longest run in yards by the Giants this season, by Shane Vereen in Week 3 against Washington. The last time the Giants did not have a run longer than 25 yards was the strike-shortened 1982 season. They have never gone through a 16-game season without a run of more than 25 yards.

HOW GOOD CAN THE GIANTS’ DEFENSE BE?

The answer, if you ask coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, will always be: “Better.”

That’s been his response from last year, when he took over the worst defense in the league, to now, when the Giants have allowed the fewest offensive touchdowns in the NFL.

“The goal was to be better today than we were yesterday,” he said this past week. “Honestly, that’s the truth. That’s not coachspeak, that’s how it’s been. I said that same thing again this past Tuesday when we met with them, to work forward, just worry about today and let’s be better today than we were yesterday. If you do that in anything in life and can accomplish that, if you can actually be that every day, then you can be pretty good at anything.”

Right now, the Giants are pretty good at defensive football, even if Spagnuolo doesn’t want his players to recognize it.

“There are some ups and downs and there is some work to do,” he said. “We’re not nearly where we want to be, in my opinion. All I can go off is the last game. We didn’t win the last game and we didn’t play good enough defense to win the last game.”

The Giants allowed 17 offensive points to the Eagles in a 24-19 loss in which they had a goal-line stand and gave the ball back to the offense with a chance to win the game twice in the final five minutes. Sounds like something most teams would take any week. Not the Giants.

“For us,” Spagnuolo said, “we’re working on that.”

CRUZ CRUISING NOW

Since coming away from the Steelers game with zero targets, Victor Cruz has seen 19 passes come his way and has caught 10 of them for 117 yards.

“I’m just getting the ball thrown my way, man, trying to be a valve for Eli [Manning] and get myself open,” Cruz said. “It felt good to catch the rock and make some plays.”

He also has lined up more in the slot in those games than he had for most of the year. Rookie Sterling Shepard spent most of the season playing that inside position, where Cruz once dominated. Since his return at the start of this season, though, Cruz mostly played outside. Until recently.

“It feels like home again,” Cruz said. “We’ll see how it goes. It’s going to be the same kind of remedy for this week as well, getting inside for a series or two, and we’ll see what comes of it.”

DODGEBALL, ANYONE?

Landon Collins is a Pro Bowl safety for the first time in his career, but if he winds up at the event, he might have to brush up on another sport. One of the Pro Bowl activities this season will be a dodgeball game, and Collins said he hasn’t played it since middle school.

“I appreciate the heads up,” he said when told about having to work on that possibility.

Collins said he thinks Odell Beckham Jr., a fellow Pro Bowler, would be the Giants’ best dodgeball player. But he also said he could give the receiver a run for the title.

“He has the big hands and he can dodge the ball at the different speeds and angles,” Collins said of Beckham. “But I have quickness, too, so I can dodge his balls.”

TARGETS FOR BECKHAM

Ray Flaherty caught 21 passes for a league-high 350 yards for the Giants in 1932. No Giants player has led the NFL in receiving yards since, but Odell Beckham Jr. has a chance to do it this year and end the drought.

Beckham enters Sunday with 1,323 receiving yards, second in the NFL behind T.Y. Hilton of the Colts (1,353) and just ahead of Julio Jones of the Falcons (1,313). A productive game from Beckham could land him at the top of the list. He also needs 128 yards against Washington to top the 1,450 receiving yards he posted last year. Victor Cruz’s 1,536 receiving yards in 2011 is the single-season franchise record.

MAGIC NUMBERS

4: Catches needed by Odell Beckham Jr. to reach 100 and become only the second Giant to reach that plateau. Steve Smith set the franchise record with 107 catches in 2009.

1992: The last season when a non-kicker led the Giants in scoring (running back Rodney Hampton had 14 touchdowns for 84 points). Beckham leads the Giants this season with 60 points, ahead of Sterling Shepard (48) and Robbie Gould (43), and likely will end that streak. The last Giants receiver to lead the team in scoring was Homer Jones with 84 points in 1967 on 13 receiving TDs and one rushing TD.

25: The longest run in yards by the Giants this season, by Shane Vereen in Week 3 against Washington. The last time the Giants did not have a run longer than 25 yards was the strike-shortened 1982 season. They have never gone through a 16-game season without a run of more than 25 yards.

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