EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) – With the losses piling up the last five weeks, coach Tom Coughlin has stood in front of the New York Giants after each setback and reminded them that they still controlled their playoff destiny.

After losing for the fifth time in six games on Sunday with a 36-22 loss to Philadelphia, the Giants suddenly don’t control their postseason hopes, at least in one scenario. Forget that New York holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Atlanta (7-7) for the NFC’s second wild card berth heading into the final two weeks of the season. The Giants can beat New Orleans on Sunday and then close out the season at Washington with another win, and miss the playoffs. Here’s how it works.

Philadelphia (8-6) wins at Dallas on Christmas night and then loses at home to Atlanta on Dec. 31. The Falcons also have to win this weekend against Carolina (6-8), and the Cowboys (9-5) must beat Detroit (2-12) on Dec. 31.

The cumulative result is Dallas wins the NFC East with a 10-6 record and Philadelphia, Atlanta and the Giants tie for the wild card berths at 9-7.

Under NFL rules in a three-team tie for the wild card, if there are two teams from the same division that tie must be broken first. Since they split the season series, the Eagles get the edge over the Giants on division record (5-1 vs. 4-2).

Atlanta then wins the tiebreaker with Philadelphia based on winning the head-to-head matchup on the final day of the season. The Eagles and Giants are then matched up for the second wild card berth and Philadelphia wins again based on better division record.

According to the NFL, there also are a couple of ways that the Giants can clinch a playoff berth this weekend.

First – and all five things have to happen – the Giants beat New Orleans, Minnesota loses or tie at Green Bay, Atlanta loses to Carolina, Philadelphia win or ties at Dallas on Christmas and Seattle wins or ties at San Diego.

Second – and again all five have to happen – the Giants win, Minnesota loses or ties, Atlanta loses, Philadelphia wins or ties and San Francisco loses or ties against Arizona.

It’s no wonder Coughlin switched his message to the team on Monday. Instead of telling them they still control their own destiny, he said they need to stop the mistakes that cost them Sunday in a turnover-marred performance against Philadelphia.

New York turned the ball over four times, blew a couple of key defensive assignments late and allowed a 64-yard kickoff return after taking a 16-14 lead in the fourth quarter. When the Giants had a chance to take control early in the game, they allowed an 80-yard scoring drive, which included giving up a first down on a third-and-11 play.

“Improvement will be a huge factor when they come back on Wednesday,” Coughlin said. “That’s the message I am selling.”

Quarterback Eli Manning insisted that the Giants are doing good things on the field, but they are not making the big plays when it counts.

“We are not finding the way to win the game,” said Manning, whose second interception was returned for a game-clinching touchdown with 2:47 to play and the Giants down by seven points. “That’s the way it is, other teams are playing better than we are. We have to keep fighting.”

Offensive tackle Bob Whitfield isn’t surprised that the Giants are mediocre, at least in terms of their record.

“We are doing the things that make you 7-7,” Whitfield said. “You can see the sparks and flashes of stuff that can make you 12-2, but you also see the (stuff) that makes you 7-7. The ray of hope is that we have that championship-type ability, but we have to show it more often.”

Most of the players didn’t know there was a scenario where they could win their last two games and still miss the playoffs.

“We just have to play,” defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. “Whatever happens, happens. It’s crazy; crazier things have happened. We’ve been up and down all year. I think we have the leadership and the coaches will keep us focused. If we don’t go, we have next year. We’re not going to play any different based on the scenario.”


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