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Giants vs. Redskins preview

If the Giants can somehow use this awful year to catapult them forward — with new leadership, perhaps a new quarterback — it may actually be worth it.

Giants interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo looks on

Giants interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo looks on during a game against the Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

THE DRAFT WATCH

There might be some scoreboard watching during Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium as the Giants’ position in the upcoming draft could be tied to the result of the Colts-Texans game. If the Giants lose, they will secure the No. 2 overall pick. If the Colts win, they’ll also secure the second slot. The only way the Giants can fall to third is if they win and the Colts lose. That would make both teams 3-13 and the Colts would be ahead of (or technically behind) the Giants based on a strength-of-schedule tiebreaker.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

Interim head coach Steve Spanguolo may not be back with the Giants next year, a casualty of the team’s disappointment. But he thinks the tribulations of this season will somehow serve the organization down the road.

“Losing is frustrating and when frustration and emotions get involved, sometimes this happens,” he said of the rash of unseemly and uncharacteristic actions and reactions that have accentuated a season that has also witnessed some of the worst football results in franchise history. That includes the suspension of three cornerbacks, the benching of the franchise quarterback and the firing of the head coach and general manager.

“You hope it doesn’t happen and you hope it’s handled in certain ways, but it’s part of growth,” Spagnuolo said. “It was something I talked with the guys about and I do think all of it is growth. I think some good will come out of all of it. I truly believe that. We’ll find that out later what it is.”

Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, another longtime Giants hand with a now tenuous future, expressed similar thoughts.

“It’s been very, very sad in terms of all that’s happened,” he said of this season. “I mean, this is the New York Giants. Going beyond what happens on the field as far as the record so forth, it’s a special place. And it’ll be special again.”

If the Giants can somehow use this awful year to catapult them forward — with new leadership, perhaps a new quarterback — it may actually be worth it. The NFL allows teams to make sharp turnarounds, and the Giants could be next year’s worst-to-first story. What team wouldn’t trade one lousy campaign for a potential decade of stability and contention?

If they can’t and find themselves mired in this mess for the next few years, though, 2017 will be looked back on not as a pivot point but as a failed chance to make significant changes and fix institutional problems. A potential lesson that goes unlearned. And that would be the worst loss of the all: the lost opportunity to grow.

TOMORROW’S A NEW YEAR

New Year’s Eve. Temperatures in the teens. Not even the scent of the playoffs for either team. A stadium that could have more empty seats than filled ones.

This is about as menial as an NFL game can get.

And the Giants and Redskins, who play each other in Sunday’s finale at MetLife Stadium, see this a bit differently than most others do. It’s their job to go out and play football, and it’s one they take very seriously even if those who are observing it have a hard time mustering much enthusiasm.

“Any game is an important game, but it being our last game of the year and us not having the type of year we expected to have, it’ll be good to go out on a good note,” defensive tackle Damon Harrison said. “Anytime you’re 2-13, I mean, nobody has anything to be proud of. But if we can get a win, I think that’ll take us to the right direction heading into the offseason.”

Asked if it is hard to motivate a team in such circumstances, Washington coach Jay Gruden essentially admitted that the mindset of NFL players and coaches differs greatly from that of just about everyone else.

“I think a lot of people look into that and probably say it would be, but for us it hasn’t been, I don’t think,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a heck of a great test. They were able to come in here, they didn’t have anything to play for last year, and knocked us out of the playoffs . . . Anytime you strap up, put a helmet on, shoulder pads and you’re out there competing, people are going to try to win. And that’s what I anticipate on Sunday.”

216

Career games for Eli Manning with the Giants when he steps on the field Sunday against Washington. That will tie him with Hall of Famer Michael Strahan for the most ever in a Giants uniform.

11.5

Sacks by Jason Pierre-Paul in 11 career games against Washington. That’s the most the defensive end has recorded against any team.

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