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Giants’ Saquon Barkley finally on cusp of first playoff chance

MINNEAPOLIS — Saquon Barkley doesn’t want to jinx anything. 

Ask him about what is brewing with the Giants this season, and he will respond with a verbal stiff-arm. He will juke you out with a comment that leads one way then veers back the other way. There is speaking something into reality, then there is the caution Barkley is exhibiting as he changes the subject with the prowess he displays changing direction with the ball in his hands. 

His team will face the Vikings on Saturday afternoon, inside (thank goodness) well-heated U.S. Bank Stadium, on the precipice of making the playoffs for the first time in Barkley’s five years with the Giants. There is actually a chance the Giants, with help, can clinch a berth in the NFC tournament this weekend

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

Barkley — steadfastly, and at times desperately — always said “when,” not “if’’ when asked about the Giants turning all the losing into winning. The franchise that made him — a running back — the No. 2-overall pick in the 2018 draft went 19-46 in his first four seasons. He endured nagging ankle issues and one season-ending knee injury. He came in when Pat Shurmur was the head coach and was around for Joe Judge’s two-year stay and now is a fixture on Brian Daboll’s squad. 

Saquon Barkley
Saquon Barkley is finally on the cusp of his first playoff opportunity.
Saquon Barkley speaks to the media on Wednesday.
Saquon Barkley speaks to the media on Wednesday.
Bill Kostroun/New York Post

The new general manager, Joe Schoen, seems to want Barkley moving forward as the rebuilding continues. Daboll seems smitten. He grew a bit emotional last week, lauding Barkley for the way he churned for yards in the fourth quarter of the important 20-12 victory over the Commanders. 

“I saw an explosive, downhill, powerful runner,’’ Daboll said. “And I was proud as heck of the kid.” 

Barkley has done his best to remain stoic. His production (1,170 rushing yards, nine touchdowns, team-high 47 receptions) was recognized this past week when he was selected for his second Pro Bowl, the first time since his breathtaking rookie season. The Giants are 8-5-1 and Barkley’s “when’’ prediction is nearly here. 

“It’s the truth,’’ Barkley said. “I can’t really talk around it, to be honest. Yeah, I feel like this is something we can do for a very long time. We have a lot of great talent in this locker room. I think Joe and all those guys upstairs, and Dabs have done a tremendous job for us and put us in positions and created a roster that can go out there and win games. I feel like the future is bright, but you can’t really get too caught up in the future. 

“You’ve got to live in the moment. You’ve got to live in the now. We’ve got a great opportunity now. We’ve got to capitalize on that.’’ 

NY Post Illustration

The Giants can gain their first playoff berth since 2016 — and only their second since 2011 — on Saturday if they beat the Vikings (11-3) and two of the three teams in the running in the NFC — the Commanders, Seahawks and Lions — lose. If none of that happens, the Giants have two more opportunities — the Colts at home and the Eagles in Philadelphia — to win and virtually assure themselves of getting in. 

None of the players who will suit up for this game have been here before with the Giants. 

“We’ve been losing so much so we put so much pressure on us, like, ‘We have to do this to get out of the gutter, to get out of the hole and be playoff contenders one day,’ ’’ said defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who is in his eighth NFL season, split between the Jets and Giants, and still waiting for his first postseason appearance. “Fortunately it looks like we’re going to be able to have a chance and we’ve just got to make sure we finish the season strong.’’ 

If they do, the Giants will be where Barkley was always adamant they would get to. 

“The first thing you said is we win, right?’’ Barkley said. “We’ve got to focus on us. We can’t really worry or be concerned with what happens outside of that. We put ourselves to be in position to be in the driver’s seat and that’s the beauty of it. We’ve got to capitalize on that.’’

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