The Giants will create two solo entries for themselves in the NFL Record Book if they defeat the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East championship game Sunday night.
A victory would give the Giants a record 23rd first place finish. But if they lose, they will be in a four-way tie for most first-place finishes in history. Let us explain.
When the season began, the Giants and Chicago Bears were tied at the top by finishing in first place 22 times. Green Bay and Dallas were tied for second at 21. The Giants can stand alone with No. 23.
The Packers have already won the NFC North (meaning, of course, that Chicago didn’t), which gives them 22 first-place finishes. If the Cowboys defeat the Giants, they will have their 22nd regular season title and a four-way tie will be created.
The Giants are also tied for a league-record with – as it’s phrased in the NFL Record & Fact Book – “Most seasons participating in postseason games” with 30. The only other franchise with 30 postseason appearances is Dallas, so the winner Sunday gets to stand alone in the record book.
*The Giants-Cowboys winner will capture the division title with a 9-7 record. It will be the first time since the 1970 merger that the NFC East champion will have fewer than 10 victories.
The last time the Giants played in a division in which the titlist had single-digit victories was 1967. That year, they finished 7-7 in the Century Division of the NFL’s Eastern Conference. The Cleveland Browns won the division with a 9-5 record. The Giants haven’t finished in first place with less than 10 victories since 1958, when their 9-3 mark tied Cleveland atop the Eastern Conference. The Giants won the conference playoff before losing to Baltimore, in overtime, 23-17, in the “Greatest Game Ever Played.”
*In the Giants’ victory over the Jets on Saturday, Eli Manning threw a 99-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz. Also Saturday, Carolina’s Cam Newton threw a 91-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LeFell. It was the first time in history two different quarterbacks threw touchdown passes of at least 90 yards on the same day.
*Manning’s pass to Cruz was the 13th 99-yard touchdown pass (and the 14th 99-yard play from scrimmage) in NFL history. On Sept 12, New England’s Tom Brady and Wes Welker hooked up for a 99-yard touchdown pass against the Dolphins in Miami. This is the first season in NFL history with two 99-yard touchdown passes.
*The 99-yard scoring drive was the longest in Tom Coughlin’s eight seasons as head coach. The previous long was a 98-yarder on Oct. 7, 2007 – also against the Jets. The Giants’ most recent 99-yard possession had been on Jan. 6, 2002 in a home game vs. Green Bay. Their longest drive this season prior to Saturday was an 89-yarder against Buffalo on Oct. 16.
The Giants had the fourth 99-yard drive in the NFL this season. New England was involved in the other three. The Patriots’ offense had two 99-yard marches (Sept. 12 at Miami and Sept. 18 vs. San Diego) and their defense surrendered one (Oct. 2 at Oakland).
*The Giants scored on a safety and a touchdown nine seconds apart in the fourth quarter in their victory over the Jets. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that was the shortest time span between two Giants scores in 40 years. On Sept. 19, 1971, they recovered two Green Bay fumbles (one on a kickoff) in the end zone six seconds apart in a season-opening 42-40 victory in Lambeau Field.
*The Jets were four-for-21 on third-down conversion opportunities. It was the most third-down attempts by a Giants opponent since Nov. 23, 1997, when Washington had 22 in a 7-7 tie (the Redskins succeeded on eight of them).
*The Jets’ 17 failed third-down opportunities were the most by a Giants opponent since Dec. 6, 1987, when Philadelphia was one-for-18 in a 23-20 Giants overtime victory. It was the highest number of third-down failures in the NFL since Oct. 11, 1998, when Oakland was two-for-19 vs. San Diego.
*The Giants’ ran 55 offensive plays to 89 for the Jets. The 34-play difference was the largest against the Giants in exactly five years; on Dec. 24, 2006, they ran 45 plays to 86 for New Orleans in a Saints victory. It was the Giants’ largest negative play differential in a win since Oct. 5, 1997, when they ran 45 plays to Dallas’ 81, but defeated the Cowboys, 20-17.
*The Giants allowed 30 pass completions on Saturday, but none was longer than 15 yards. They had not done that since Dec. 1, 1986 in San Francisco, where the longest of Hall of Famer Joe Montana’s 32 completions was 15 yards in the Giants’ 21-17 Monday night victory. No NFL team had allowed at least 30 completions with none longer than 15 yards since Dec. 30, 2001, when Chris Weinke of Carolina had a long gain of 15 yards among his 32 completions vs. Arizona.
*Manning has set the franchise record with 4,587 passing yards this season. He has thrown 556 passes and needs 13 attempts to break Kerry Collins’ team record of 568, set in 2001. Manning has 335 completions and needs five to break his own franchise record of 339, set last year.
*Cruz has already set the Giants’ single-season receiving yardage record with 1,358 (breaking Amani Toomer’s mark of 1,343, set in 2002). That is the NFL’s third-highest total. Cruz has 76 catches, which is tied for the fifth-highest total in team history. He needs seven receptions against Dallas to move into sole possession of the No. 2 spot. Steve Smith’s team-record 107 catches in 2009 is out of reach.
*Hakeem Nicks has 71 catches, the eighth-highest total in team history, and 1,116 yards (10th in the league and the ninth-highest single-season total in Giants history).
*Lawrence Tynes’ three extra points Saturday increased his Giants total to 170 and moved him into a tie with Joe Danelo for second place on the franchise’s career list. Pete Gogolak is first in Giants history with 268 extra points.
*The Giants are 0-2 this season when they score a touchdown on their first offensive possession. They are 2-1 when their opponents score on their first series.
*The Giants have 19 interceptions this season, the most they’ve had since the 2000 NFC champions had 20. Corey Webster is tied for second in the NFC and tied for fourth in the NFL with six interceptions, the most by a Giant since Emmanuel McDaniel had six in 2000.
*The outcome of the two NFC East games Sunday will decide the final two opponents on the Giants’ 2012 schedule, those determined by their place in the standings.
If they win and finish first, the Giants will host the Green Bay Packers and visit the 49ers in San Francisco – as they did this season. Should they lose and Washington defeats Philadelphia, the Giants will finish second and the Detroit Lions will visit MetLife Stadium and the Giants will travel to the winner of the Cardinals-Seahawks game in Arizona (both teams are 7-8). If the Giants lose and the Eagles beat the Redskins, the Giants will fall to third place (because Philly will have the better division record) and the Giants would host Chicago and visit the Arizona-Seattle loser.
The remainder of the Giants’ opponents is determined by the NFL’s scheduling rotation. They will, of course, play home-and-home series with NFC East foes Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington. In 2012, the NFC East will play the NFC South and the AFC North. The Giants will host New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Pittsburgh and travel to Atlanta, Carolina, Baltimore and Cincinnati.