Giants need win to end four-year playoff drought
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) With two games left in the regular season, the New York Giants and Detroit Lions are in ''just-win'' mode when it comes to the playoffs.
The Giants (10-4) are just a win away from ending a four-year postseason drought after beating the Lions 17-6 on Sunday for their eighth win in nine games.
If New York beats either Philadelphia (5-9) on Thursday night or Washington (7-5-1) in the regular season finale on New Year's Day, they are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
Of course, they can make it even if they lost both road games, but winning makes life easier.
''It feels fantastic,'' said receiver Victor Cruz, who played on the 2011 team that won the Super Bowl.
''Anytime you are in a position, this is what coach talks about. Being in contention, playing meaningful football in December, and that's where we are. And we just want to continue that trend and obviously work toward a playoff win.''
The Giants' defense continues to carry the team. The unit has given up a total of 13 points in beating Dallas and Detroit, both division leaders.
Eli Manning threw two touchdowns, including a game-clinching 4-yarder with 5:47 to play that Odell Beckham Jr. hauled in with his left hand.
''Norm,'' Cruz said of the catch. ''The norm. I wasn't even surprised.''
The Lions (9-5) like the Giants control their own destiny despite the loss. They are at Dallas a week from Monday and finish at home against the Green Bay Packers (8-6), who trail them by a game in the NFC North.
Even if Detroit loses next week, the contest against the Packers probably would set up a winner-take-all game for the division.
''We just keep taking one at a time,'' Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. ''We'll take a look at this tape, there will be some stuff we would wish we could've done better. I know I'm in that boat, so we'll figure it out and just play better next time around.''
The defeat did drop Detroit to the No. 3 seed in the conference as the Seahawks now hold the second spot and the reward of an opening playoff bye.
If the postseason started next weekend, the Lions would host a game in the wild-card round. They can solidify their position with a win on Dec. 26 in Dallas.
NO STAFFORD WOES: The worries about the injured middle finger on Stafford's throwing hand were largely unfounded.
Stafford brushed off the injury, saying ''I felt pretty good.'' His performance largely backed up the statement. He was 24 of 39 for 273 yards, including 67-yard pass to Golden Tate.
''I thought he played good football,'' Tate said of Stafford. ''I thought he definitely gave us a chance. That's a tough guy and will never question him ever. We just needed to be a little bit better all around.''
PUGH BACK: After missing the past five games with a knee injury, left guard Justin Pugh was back in the lineup, and it helped.
Pugh, perhaps the team's top lineman, New York rushed for 114 yards, its third-highest total of the season. It is 5-1 in games where it rushes for at least 100 yards. New York also tied a season high with seven third-down conversions on 15 attempts.
The offense, however, continues to struggle. It gained 300 yards against Detroit, the first time it hit that number in the past four games.
''We know that we can make plays and we can have that game where we score 28 or 35, so we can't force it,'' quarterback Eli Manning said after completing 20 of 28 for 201 yards. ''We just have to wait for the opportunities, be patient with them.''
LIONS LACK RUN: Leading rusher Theo Riddick missed his second straight game with a wrist injury. Detroit rushed for 56 yards, the second-lowest total by a Giants' opponent this season. Dwayne Washington led the way with 31 yards on 14 carries. His first one was for 12 yards so he 19 on his final 13.
HOME SWEET HOME: The Giants finished 7-1 at home in the regular season, winning their last six.
It was their best home record at MetLife since the stadium opened in 2010. They were 6-2 in 2012. The previous time they finished 7-1 at home was in 2008, when they played at Giants Stadium.
INJURIES: Detroit starting CB Darius Slay left in the second quarter after aggravating a hamstring injury. New York lost CB Janoris Jenkins in the second quarter with a back injury. Giants backup QB Ryan Nassib was inactive because of a recurring elbow injury.
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