The Giants will make the playoffs this season unless the bottom falls out.
They’re frequently irrelevant by Thanksgiving. But this year, they’re on track for their first postseason appearance since 2016.
Their 6-2 start behind first-year coach Brian Daboll places them in the NFC’s sixth seed at the moment, with the San Francisco 49ers (4-4) in the seventh and final spot.
The stat website FiveThirtyEight gives the Giants an 80% chance to make the playoffs.
Any threat to knock the Giants out would have to come from the likes of Washington (4-5), Atlanta (4-6) or Tampa (4-5), if the Bucs somehow don’t win the NFC South.
The Rams (3-5) and Packers (3-6) look unsalvageable, even with half a season to play.
So the only real threat to the Giants’ playoff hopes is themselves.
Daboll said that’s why he hasn’t addressed the topic with his players yet.
“We just live in the moment,” Daboll said. “At the end of the year, wherever you’re at, you’re at. I think if you lose focus on what’s important … If you get too far ahead of yourself, it brings you back to reality real quick.”
So the threat only becomes real if the Giants collapse and start losing to the likes of the lowly Houston Texans (1-6-1) on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
The threat only becomes real if they lose one or two in their two upcoming head-to-head games against Washington on Dec. 4 and 18, as well.
Even with games remaining against the Cowboys, Vikings and Eagles (twice), there are plenty of beatable opponents in the Texans, Lions, Colts and Washington (twice) to maintain the Giants’ first-half pace into a postseason berth.
That’s what makes Sunday’s game against Houston intriguing, even if it isn’t a sexy matchup: These are the games that will solidify the Giants as a playoff team if they win.
Unfortunately, the week began ominously already for Daboll’s Giants.
Starting safety Xavier McKinney reported back from the bye week without the use of his left hand. His injuries required surgery following an off-roading accident in Cabo, Mexico.
The full extent of McKinney’s injuries still are not known. He claimed he only broke a couple fingers, but he couldn’t say if he’ll be able to play again this season.
That likely means coordinator Wink Martindale will be starting three rookies on his 11-man defense Sunday: first-round pick Kayvon Thibodeaux on the edge, fifth-round pick Micah McFadden at weak side linebacker and fourth-round pick Dane Belton at safety.
Martindale admitted McKinney’s injury will have an impact. But he said it’s up to the Giants to not let that setback dictate their fate.
“I think there will be an effect,” Martindale said. “It could be a good effect or a bad effect. We’re going to find that out. I always talk to the defensive guys about [how] we control the narrative of every situation. … I think we’ve done a good job of that so far, for the most part. It’s just another injury that we’re going to have to deal with.”
McKinney’s loss could be felt immediately in part because Houston is more competitive than its 1-6-1 record shows.
Quarterback Davis Mills is a capable passer despite only leading the Texans to 16.6 points per game.
He’s thrown for 240 yards or more four times this season, including 302 yards against the Las Vegas Raiders. And he’s thrown two TD passes in four of his eight games.
Daboll’s Giants are not talented or superior enough to strut into a stadium any week and just win, regardless of their opponent’s record. They know that.
They know Lovie Smith’s Houston team is coming off a mini-bye themselves, having played on Thursday Night Football in Week 9.
And they know the Texans trailed the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles in that game by only four points heading to the fourth quarter before losing, 29-17.
Daniel Jones insisted the Giants won’t overlook Houston. Daboll knows he has Saquon Barkley — third in the NFL with 779 rushing yards — going up against the NFL’s worst rushing defense in Houston (180.6 yards allowed per game).
Look for a lot more ‘Power’ runs from offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, like that final drive in Jacksonville, with starting O-linemen Evan Neal and Ben Bredeson still out.
“I think they’re a good team,” Jones said. “They do a lot of good things on the defensive side of the ball. They’ve got a lot of good players, good sound scheme. Everyone in this league is good. We’ll need to play our best game.”
The Giants’ best will beat Houston. Anything less risks disaster.