Giants and Titans need to win out to stay in playoff hunt
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans and New York Giants aren’t paying much attention to playoff scenarios.
They are on the outside looking in at the postseason heading into their game Sunday at MetLife Stadium, and their best chance to make the playoffs is to win their three remaining games.
The road for the Titans (7-6) is not as complicated as for the Giants (5-8).
Tennessee has won two in a row and it needs to win out against the Giants, Washington and Indianapolis, while Baltimore and Miami each lose once.
Despite winning four of five since the bye week, the Giants need a miracle to get to the postseason. It would involve winning their final three (Indianapolis and Dallas after Tennessee) and getting a ton of help. The oddsmakers have given them a less than one percent chance of success.
The bottom line is Eli Manning, Saquon Barkley and company are playing well and they will be a major challenge for the Titans, who have been inconsistent since the start of October.
“The only thing that can really keep us focused on the task at hand is knowing that we have to win out to pretty much put ourselves in a good position to make the playoffs. For us to be looking at different scenarios and all those things right now is kind of pointless because you can see in the NFL you can’t judge, you can’t pencil nobody in at this point,” Titans safety Kevin Byard said. “We have to control what we can control, and that’s beating the Giants.”
The Giants are coming off their best game in years. Playing without star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (quadriceps), they beat the Washington Redskins 40-16 in a game in which Manning threw three touchdowns and turned things over to rookie Kyle Lauletta at the start of the fourth quarter with a 40-0 lead.
“We have so many weapons on this team, and we’re still figuring it out,” said Barkley, who ran for a career-best 170 yards and scored on a 78-yard run. “Right now, when you got Eli throwing for three touchdowns and we’re rushing for over 200 yards as a team, special teams is playing great, defense is giving us great field position with the help of special teams, our defense is making plays. That’s what coach has been saying, teams beat teams. Players don’t beat teams. We’ve been playing at a high level as a team. We got to keep it up down the stretch, and it starts with the Titans.”
Five things to watch Sunday:
The sacks are finally coming in bunches for the Giants. After getting 14 in the first 11 games, the defense has had five each in the last two games. Linebacker Olivier Vernon, who was under the microscope after getting one in six games in an injury-plagued season, has 3½ in the last two games. Rookie tackle B.J. Hill had three against the Bears.
RUN DERRICK RUN
Derrick Henry just posted the first 100-yard rushing performance this season for Tennessee with his franchise-record 238 yards in the Titans’ rout of Jacksonville. Now the question is whether he can follow that up. The TItans haven’t had back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances since DeMarco Murray in October 2016.
RUN SAQUON. CATCH SAQUON.
Barkley has rushed for at least 100 yards in four straight games and is third in the NFL with 1,124 yards rushing. His 5.4-yard average is the team’s highest since Brandon Jacobs averaged 5.6 in 2006. The rookie also is second in the league with 1,753 yards from scrimmage, 11 yards behind Ezekiel Elliott of Dallas. Barkley leads the Giants with 78 catches, one more than Beckham. He needs 11 receptions in the final three games to break Reggie Bush’s 2006 record of 88 by a rookie running back.
The Giants have 11 interceptions since their bye week, linebacker Alec Ogletree leading the way with four in the last four games, including two touchdown returns. Safety Curtis Riley got New York on the scoreboard against Washington last weekend with a 9-yard return for a touchdown. This is the first season the Giants have scored three touchdowns on interception runbacks since 2007. Ogletree leads NFL linebackers with five interceptions, and he has tied the single-season team record for interceptions by a linebacker, set by Jerry Hillebrand in 1963.
The Titans lost a pair of starters to injured reserve earlier this week with tight end Jonnu Smith, a replacement for three-time Pro Bowler Delanie Walker, and right tackle Jack Conklin because of knee injuries. Anthony Firkser, who came into the NFL in 2017 as an undrafted player out of Harvard, is expected to get more work with Smith out. Veteran Dennis Kelly, who already has started a pair of games this season, is expected to replace Conklin.
AP Pro Football Writer Teresa M. Walker contributed to this report.