EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - On the surface, Sunday’s game between the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants might not mean much. After all, both teams have been eliminated from playoff contention.
The Giants don’t look at it that way.
The Giants (6-9) think of Sunday afternoon’s game as a chance to continue their winning ways into the offseason, an opportunity for younger players to get as a shot to prove they can play at a high level. A chance for revenge for an earlier loss, too, and a way for veteran players who are facing free agency to prove they deserve another contract with the team.
“It’s important for us, because any time you line up, it’s important to win,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Friday. “Obviously with the last game of the year, it’s very important. We’ve had a couple of wins. We certainly enjoy that part of it much more than the other.
“I’ve talked all year about improvement and individual improvement and team improvement and progress and all of those kinds of things, and there has been a little bit of progress, and I certainly would like to see it continue.”
The Giants enter the game against the Eagles (9-6) on a three-game winning streak. Their quarterback, Eli Manning, is on a roll, putting up some of the best numbers of his career.
Ever since a five-interception game in a loss to the 49ers on Nov. 16, Manning has completed 127 of 182 passes (69.7 percent) for 1,486 yards with 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions. It’s approaching the 70 percent ratio that new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo floated to Manning in the preseason.
For the year, Manning is completing 64.1 percent of his passes (351 of 548) for 3,981 yards, 29 TDs and just 13 interceptions.
The team has also established rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. as a rising star. After missing the first four games with an injury, Beckham has broken out, catching 79 of Manning’s passes for 1,120 yards and 11 touchdowns, making his fair share of highlight-film receptions.
New York has also seen another rookie, Andre Williams, emerge as a go-to back. Williams has gone for more than 100 yards in two of the last three wins, including 110 yards on 26 carries in last week’s 37-27 victory over the Rams. After a rugged start, Williams has a team-high 678 yards rushing and six touchdowns.
“It’s very important to keep building on what we’ve been building,” said Williams, who was upgraded from questionable to probable for Sunday with a sore shoulder. “We want to go out with a bang, stay strong, to go out on top. We want to finish strong, so every time I get on the field it’s important. It’s a chance to get on the field and grow as a player.”
Williams may have to share time Sunday with Rashad Jennings, who was the team’s leading rusher before going out with a sprained ankle that has now healed. Jennings has been cleared to play Sunday.
“We’re starting to click like we should have been, clicking on all cylinders,” Jennings said. “We don’t want it to end. I think the whole team feels that way, like we wish it wasn’t our last game.
“We’re preparing as if we’re going to the playoffs and that’s our goal for next year. I can’t guarantee anything, but that’s our mindset. We’ve only had glimpses and flashes of what we could look like. We’re going to come back next year and pick it all up again. We have a chance to be great, and I don’t say that lightly. We want to leave a good taste in our mouths.”
Another key Giant is defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who is staring at becoming a free agent. Pierre-Paul has had a steady year, making 72 tackles, including 10 1-2 sacks and three forced fumbles. Is it enough to get a big contract from the Giants?
“I don’t know what the future holds,” Pierre-Paul said. “Everything is there. My agent will negotiate. I’m not worried about it. I just want to win this last game, go out and play some football Sunday, go out and put on a show for our fans.”
If Pierre-Paul has his choice, he would prefer to stay with the Giants.
“I’ve always thought that if I’m a Giant, I’m a Giant my whole life,” Pierre-Paul said. “I’d love to be a Giant and want to be a Giant forever. I have a lot more football to play. Everyone asks me that question every week and I say the same thing. I don’t know. I don’t know what the future holds. I’ve had a good season. It’s now up to negotiation.”
NOTES: Rookie LB Devon Kennard, who had been playing solid football, will miss the game with a toe injury. He was declared out after Friday’s practice. … Jennings, Williams, LB Jameel McClain and LB Paul Hazel are all probable. . With a win, the Giants will match their 2013 record of 7-9.
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