Eli Manning grew up in New Orleans rooting for the Saints. On Saturday, he found himself back in that role. And unlike most of his childhood, the Saints did not disappoint him.
The Saints beat the Buccaneers, 31-24, on Saturday night, a decision that clinched a Giants postseason berth for the first time since 2011. The Giants (10-5) entered the day needing either the Packers, Falcons or Bucs to lose for them to get in. The Falcons (10-5) and Packers (9-6) won easily earlier in the day before the Saints came through for them by beating the Bucs (8-7).
The Giants will be the No. 5 seed and will play a wild-card game on Jan. 7 or 8. Their opponent has yet to be determined; they will play in Green Bay, Detroit, Atlanta, Tampa Bay or Seattle.
If the Bucs had won, the Giants would have needed the Cowboys to beat the Lions on Monday night to clinch a wild card in Week 16. That would have been an awkward situation for both sides of the NFC East rivalry, leaving the Giants rooting for the Cowboys and the Cowboys playing to help the Giants.
Now it doesn’t matter.
Nor does next week’s game against Washington for the Giants, who will be faced with decisions on resting some key players. Defensive tackle Damon Harrison was in and out of Thursday night’s game against the Eagles with a knee injury, starting left tackle Ereck Flowers suffered an ankle injury in that game and cornerback Janoris Jenkins is dealing with a back bruise he suffered last Sunday against the Lions. Ben McAdoo could decide to sit or limit all of them next Sunday.
There might be some desire to sit Odell Beckham Jr., too. That would be to avoid injury but also to avoid a potential ugly situation with antagonist Josh Norman on the field for Washington. The two have a heated history and the Giants might want to protect Beckham from any possible situations that could result in his losing his cool, being fined or potentially being suspended for a playoff game.
The Giants have all week to think about those things. For now, they get to celebrate making the playoffs.
“There is a process in progressing to your ultimate objective,” Ben McAdoo said of making the playoffs in his first season as head coach. “This is the next step in the process. But each step requires focus on the task at hand, and our focus right now is on learning from Thursday night’s game and moving on and getting better. It’s all in front of us, and we are still working toward playing our best, most complete game. And we have a tough game in the division at Washington this week.”
McAdoo is the fourth coach in Giants history to lead the team to the playoffs in his first season, joining Allie Sherman (1961), Dan Reeves (1993) and Jim Fassel (1997).