This is all you really need to know about the Giants' playoff scenarios:
Win on Thursday night in Philadelphia and they are in.
It's that simple, which is a rarity this time of year when figuring out tiebreaker scenarios is more confusing than trying to figure out which bulb is broken on the string of Christmas lights over your garage, thus causing 100 feet of lights to suddenly go out. (Hint: It's the last one you check -- always.) The tiebreakers and scenarios can be even more confusing when you factor in ties. Usually I don't, but there have already been a couple of ties this year.
That's why you should keep it simple. In fact, a win by the Giants not only clinches a playoff spot but I'm pretty sure it clinches at least the No. 5 seed -- or top wild card spot. Yes, the NFC East isn't out of reach yet, but the wild card remains the more likely scenario. And at this point, the Giants are looking at a first-round trip to Detroit. Or maybe Green Bay. Or possibly Atlanta or Seattle.
But forget all that for the moment and focus on the simple second sentence of this story. Win and they're in.
In case you can't just keep it simple, here's everything else you need to know:
Yes, Virginia, the Giants can still win the NFC East. They need to win at Philadelphia and at Washington in their final two games and hope the Cowboys lose at home against the Lions and at Philly in their finale. It's possible, but don't forget that no team coached by someone other than Ben McAdoo has beaten the Cowboys this year. So if the Cowboys suddenly lose their last two games, they'd have bigger problems than losing the division title.
No, the Giants haven't clinched yet. And it all has to do with one nightmare, three-way tie scenario:
The Giants are the odd team out if they finish in a three-way tie for two spots at 10-6 with the Bucs and Lions. (Forget the Packers, because if they get to 10-6 they win the NFC North on tiebreakers over the Lions.) As far as I can tell, that's the only way the Giants don't get in the playoffs with 10 wins thanks to the Redskins' loss to the Panthers on Monday night.
And yes, it's more complicated than it sounds. The Bucs have to go 10-6 and not win the NFC South, which means the Falcons (9-5) have to go 2-0 to lock up the division. (I believe if the Falcons go 1-1 the Bucs win the division and the Giants would not miss the playoffs in a three-way tiebreaker with the Lions and Falcons.) And the Lions (9-5) have to go 10-6 and not win the division, which means the Packers (8-6) have to finish 2-0 to lock up the NFC North (on tie-breakers by beating the Lions twice, as I just said). And since the Lions and Packers play in the season finale and the Packers have to win that game to make this fantasy come true, the Lions have to win in Dallas on Dec. 26 to get their 10th win.
So … are keeping up with me so far? If the Giants go 0-2, the Bucs go 2-0, the Lions go 1-1 by winning in Dallas but losing at home to the Packers and they all finish 10-6 (deep breath here), the Falcons go 2-0 and the Packers go 2-0 to win their divisions then the Bucs, Giants and Lions are all tied at 10-6 for two wild-card spots.
In that scenario, with three teams tied from different divisions, the NFL first works to figure out the top team (or the No. 5 seed in this case) and the first tiebreaker is "head-to-head sweep," which isn't applicable in this case since the Bucs haven't played either team. The next tie-breaker is conference record. And in this scenario, the Bucs would be 8-4, the Lions would be 8-4 and the Giants would be 7-5. So the Giants would be "eliminated" from the No. 5 seed and the Lions would end up getting it based on the next tie-breaker - common games.
Then the NFL would work to determine the sixth seed between the Bucs and the Giants and the first tie-breaker, again, would be head-to-head, which is again not applicable. The second tiebreaker is conference record, which the Giants would again lose (8-4 to 7-5).
So the Giants would be out. And I'm pretty sure that's the only way.
Which means …
If the Giants do lose out, can they still make the playoffs? Why, yes … yes they can. They would simply need to avoid those nightmare scenario that I just painstakingly outlined above. So the Giants would just need a loss by either the Bucs or Packers to get one of the two wild-card spots. A Lions loss in Dallas next week would also do it, since either the Lions or Packers have to lose in Week 17. One of them, in that scenario, would win the division. The other would have only 9 wins.
How do ties factor in? Shut up.
So, in summary … Win and they're in. Try to forget everything else for now.
(IMPORTANT NOTE: I'm really good at math, but they didn't teach tiebreakers in AP Algebra in High School, so I reserve the right to change and update this as new information becomes available - or, you know, if any of you point out mistakes).