Sunday night’s game against the Vikings will be played without a roof, without Odell Beckham Jr. and without the Giants having a chance to make the playoffs.
They will trudge around in the single-digit temperatures of a late December night in Minneapolis having been eliminated from the NFC East race when Washington clinched the division crown with a win over the Eagles on Saturday night. It marks the fourth straight season the Giants will watch the postseason from their couches, which is exactly how their best player will be viewing Sunday night’s game.
The Giants (6-8) entered the weekend needing to win their final two games and have Washington (8-7) lose its final two in order to earn the playoff spot. The second part of that equation fell through, but Tom Coughlin still is hopeful about the first.
“I want to win two games, that’s what I want to do,” he said this week. “I want to win two games. We don’t have any control of the other things. We need to win two games. If we can do that, then we can regain some of what we need.”
The one thing the Giants did know even before leaving for Minneapolis on Saturday was that they would be playing this game — whether it be do-or-die or done-and-dead — without their best offensive threat. Beckham is serving a one-game suspension for his role in the series of fracases and a helmet-to-helmet hit in last week’s game against the Panthers.
“We know how much he wants to be here with us and from the type of player he is,” said wide receiver Rueben Randle, who likely will see an increased role in the offense with his Pro Bowl teammate punished and unavailable. “He really wants to be here, so we just have to go out there and play for him.”
Coughlin knows the Giants are a far less potent team without Beckham, but he hopes his absence will have a galvanizing effect on the team.
“[There is a] bond that occurs between teammates when they’re challenged, and this certainly is a challenge,” he said. “We’ve got to pull together and get contributions from everyone . . . Our team has got to step up. I think it’s about our team to be able to now come together and play, hopefully, our best game. Certainly many, many people are going to have to be called upon.”
The word “relevant” has been used by Coughlin and the Giants all season to describe their status in the mostly pathetic NFC East. They have spent most of the season within range of, if not actually in, first place. That is no longer available to them.
For Coughlin, that might be the least important aspect of Sunday night’s game. He needs to put an emphatic punctuation on this regular season not to win a title but to help support his case for a return next year. He needs to show that the Giants are going in the right direction. Two wins gets them to .500, which sounds like a pretty low standard but would be an improvement over the previous two seasons.
“I hope to be able to make a statement about our football team going forward,” he said. “Facing a challenge, facing adversity, many, many guys have got to step up.
“To be honest with you, we’ve got to go play a football game and play well. And do it for our own personal pride and the pride of the New York Giants. We’re going to try to do our part.”
To Coughlin, the fact that the Giants are no longer relevant, in many ways, is irrelevant.