Logan Ryan has played in 15 postseason games in his career, so when it comes to big important games he has advice for his many teammates who have never been in such a situation.
"The secret I tell these guys, to playoff football, is just go out and do your job like you’ve been doing all 16 weeks and don’t make it bigger than it is," the safety said on Wednesday.
The Giants may not be able to use that advice in a literal sense. With two games remaining they trail Washington by one game in the NFC East standings. While the playoffs are within sight, they are far from assured.
That doesn’t mean Ryan’s rule should be shelved for if and when the Giants are in the postseason, though. Because Sunday’s game against the Ravens? It may be a regular-season contest in name but it’s a win-or-else proposition in nature. And even though Ryan has told teammates to not make any game bigger than it is — even Super Bowls, which he has experience with —- there is no denying the enormity of Sunday’s showdown.
"What else do we have left, right?" the safety asked and answered. "There is not much left in this season and you have to make the most of your opportunity… We’re fired up. We’re working really hard to be ready to go and have a good performance and to play a playoff football game. The stakes we’re looking at, that’s what this is."
If the Giants win, no matter what else happens, they will go into Week 17 still alive in the race for the NFC East crown. If they lose, they face mathematical elimination if either Washington or Philadelphia is victorious. Even if that doesn’t happen, a loss on Sunday diminishes their chances nearly to the point of elimination.
Can they do it? Can they beat the Ravens with the reigning MVP Lamar Jackson (who has played the last few games at that MVP level)?
Sure. They beat the Seahawks just a few weeks ago in a game that seemed similarly lopsided. Twin this one, they have to get back to the way they played then, when they were on a four-game winning streak, when they were able to control how games played out. In their last two games, against the Cardinals and Browns, they were unable to do that. The result was a pair of losses by a combined score of 46-13.
Ryan compared the recent losses to hockey games.
"When you’re not winning the game and not playing the game on your terms, you pull the goalie to try to get back in the game," he said.
That may be the best metaphor for what the Giants did against the Cardinals when they were trapped in their own territory most of the game and saddled with immobile Daniel Jones at quarterback. It was also apt to the strategy Joe Judge used to call a fake field goal deep in the red zone on the opening drive against the Browns. The Giants tried to find an edge with an extra skater, but the tradeoff was leaving an open crease.
Sunday’s game may be different because Jones, it seems, will be back and in the best shape he’s been in since he left the field in Cincinnati with his hamstring injury. And if the Giants can stop the run they way they did against the Browns, it’s unlikely that Jackson will be able to pocket-pass the Ravens to victory the way Baker Mayfield did.
"Yes, we lost the [Browns] game," Ryan said. "Yes, we didn’t play well. But we didn’t play our style because of the score. So we have to do a good job on the scoreboard so we can play our New York Giants brand throughout the game. Starting fast… so we can play on our terms."
It still might not be enough. The Ravens are fighting for their playoff existence as well. They’re also a team that has a playoff-type record at 9-4 (though they, like the Giants, need help to get in). The Giants are guaranteed to have a losing record in 2020, whether they make the postseason or not.
"I think we’ll come out and be ready to go," Ryan said. "Our team is preparing to go win this game. It’s win at all costs, win by any means."
That, after all, is the essence of playoff football… whether it’s in Week 16 or beyond.