A week ago, the Giants’ playoff hopes were fading fast.

Now, with just three games remaining, Big Blue is on the cusp of accomplishing something almost no one thought possible in Brian DeBall’s first season: clinching a playoff spot.

The Giants (8-5-1) can do just that with a Christmas Eve win over the Vikings (11-3) in Minnesota combined with losses to two of three teams: Washington (7-6-1), Seattle (7 ). -7) and Detroit (7-7).

It’s amazing when you think about what first-time head coach Daboll inherited. Not only did the Giants have the NFL’s worst record (22-59) from 2017-2021, they were stuck in salary cap hell, and their highest-paid player, wide receiver Kenny Golladay, was one of the biggest free agents in league history.

“It would be a big deal for me to go with these guys that I’ve been working with the last few years,” said defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who has never been to the playoffs in eight NFL seasons, starting with the Jets in 2015 and traded to the Giants in 2019. “I was never a fan of wanting to be a vet and jump to a Super Bowl contending team, almost like jumping off a bandwagon. It wouldn’t be so good for me. Being on a team like this where I’ve seen the ups and downs and I know these guys well, I know the struggles we’ve been through and things like that. So to be able to go with a team like that means a lot more to me.”

Most impressive in the context of the season is how the Giants reclaimed their swagger last Sunday night in Washington. The Chiefs seemed to have everything going for them with home field advantage, a bye week and a healthier roster for the rematch, but the Giants pulled out a huge 20-12 victory as their best players played in the most important moments.

This has been the hallmark of the Daboll staff: excellent coaching schemes and instilling real belief in this young team that they can win when all the chips are on the table.

It was forgotten when the Giants started 6-1 and then fell off a cliff with a 1-4-1 stretch, but that’s part of the season and we all knew that New York excelled at one thing – the results of the game just weren’t were stable all year.

However, this season could have gone sour in a hurry with a loss at Washington. Give Dabol credit for righting the ship in time, even if the job isn’t done yet.

The Giants likely need to win one of their final three games to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016, and what better way to do that than to become the underdog again? That would certainly make the Giants’ home game against Baltimore their best win of the season and give them confidence that this team can actually make a playoff run.

​​While the Giants haven’t been as explosive as the Vikings on offense (21st vs. eighth), Daniel Jones is very good at taking care of the ball.

The fourth-year quarterback is averaging just 0.5 sacks per game, down from 1.8 as a rookie, and has an NFL-best 1.0 interception rate with 4 interceptions on 406 pass attempts. It was crucial to the Giants’ 8-2-1 record in one-score games.

“I think I’ve got a better idea of ​​what wins in the NFL,” Jones said. “A lot of times it’s not what you might think. I think a lot of it has to do with taking care of the ball, being in good offensive situations, executing on critical downs and scoring in the red zone. But I think I’ve improved a lot since my rookie year.”

The defense will need to be opportunistic again after he scores a touchdown on a fumble, forcing two punts in Giants territory and three turnovers, including a turnover to win the game in Washington.

Minnesota’s interior offensive line has been a weakness and should be even more so this week with the injury to starting center Garrett Bradbury. So look for the Giants’ defensive front to wreak havoc with its four horsemen from former first- or second-round draft picks — Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Kyvon Thibodeau and Aziz Ojulari — all healthy.

It won’t be easy when Minnesota has arguably its best receiver in Justin Jefferson and New York is still without its top cornerback in Adora Jackson and top safety in Xavier McKinney for at least another week.

But doing it the hard way has been the Giants’ specialty.

“A good Christmas present would be a win,” Barkley said. “That’s what we’re focused on.”

Giants game day

The game: Giants (8-5-1) at Vikings (11-3), US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

Line: Minnesota by 4

History: The Vikings lead the all-time series, 17-12, and have won three in a row. The last victory of the “Giants” took place in 2013. New York hasn’t won in Minnesota since 2010.

Key matches:

Giants WR Richie James vs. Vikings Cam Danztler: James has stepped up with his roster spot seemingly in jeopardy after two losses against the Seahawks in Week 8, with 22 catches for 212 yards and three touchdowns in the last five games. Danztler, Minnesota’s other corner, is questionable with an injury.

Giants offensive line vs. Vikings OLB Za’Darius Smith: The Giants allowed just eight pressures and didn’t give up a sack last week against Washington, and they’ll need to continue that strong play against one of the league’s best quarterbacks. Smith has 10 sacks, 15 TFL and 21 QB.

Giants CB Fabian Mora vs. Vikings WR Justin Jefferson: This is a game where Adoree’ Jackson’s absence really hurts the Giants. Jefferson leads all NFL receivers with 111 catches and 26 catches of at least 20 yards. Washington’s Terry McLaurin caught six targets for 70 yards last week, though the Giants also played more zone defense than usual.

Giants DL Leonard Williams vs. Vikings C Austin Schlottman: Williams returned from a neck injury last week and had two pressures and recovered without a problem, completing 84 percent of his defensive snaps. Meanwhile, Minnesota is without starting center Garrett Bradbury due to injury.

Injury report:

Giants: OUT: CB Adoree’ Jackson (knee), OL Shane Lemieux (toe).

Vikings: OUT: C Gareth Bradbury (back); QUESTIONABLE: LB Eric Kendricks (hip), CB Cam Danztler (ankle).

Giant facts: Running back Saquon Barkley (starter) and defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence (reserve) were named to the Pro Bowl. … Linebacker Tae Crowder was waived and re-signed to the practice squad this week, making room for linebacker Landon Collins on the roster. … Graham Gano is the only kicker in the NFL to have three games with at least two 50-yard field goals this season.

Prediction: Vikings 27, Giants 20

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