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Why Giants aren’t expecting a tank-fest with Dolphins

If the Dolphins are tanking, what in the name of losing football are the Giants doing?

Accused by fans, media and ex-NFL players of fielding a non-competitive team this season in hopes of landing the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Dolphins (3-10) enter Sunday’s game against the Giants (2-11) with the better record.

It’s a truth that sounded impossible only a few weeks ago and even bookmakers who list the Giants as a 3-point home favorite don’t want to believe it.

The possibility of setting a franchise record with a 10th straight loss is insulting enough to the Giants. Doing it against the Dolphins sounds criminal to anyone making picks in an NFL survivor pool.

Except that’s not how it works on the field. The rapidly improving Dolphins proved that much by winning three of their past six games under first-year coach Brian Flores.

“I know most of those dudes: They are competitors,” said Giants co-captain Michael Thomas, a former Dolphins safety. “No player is going to go out there and purposely try to mess something up because film is our résumé. If we put out bad stuff, we probably won’t have a job moving forward. As players, we can’t control a lot of things, but what we can control is our effort.”

Michael Thomas
Michael ThomasRobert Sabo

So, don’t call this game the “Tank Bowl.” Or the “Chase for Chase” Young of Ohio State.

Or describe the winner of the game as the big-picture loser.

“There is too much on the line,” Giants center Jon Halapio said. “You want to play this game as long as you can. Once you are labeled as that [tanking], that’s a bad look. I don’t think anybody has that mindset no matter how bad a season is going.”

Giants-Dolphins and Giants-Redskins next week will factor heavily into determining the order atop the draft.

The Bengals (1-12) currently hold the top pick, followed by the Giants, Redskins and Dolphins, respectively. Because the Giants have played the weakest schedule of the four, they would get the better pick in any tiebreaker scenario.

So it’s the time of year when some fans start rooting against their favorite team in order to get the best possible draft pick to speed up brighter days ahead. That’s a hard reality for players to stomach.

“It’s unfortunate that there are two different mindsets: One outside the building and one inside the building,” Halapio said. “We are giving our best effort to win the game. Some people outside want us to lose the game for the draft. Some [fans] are very supportive.”

The Dolphins actually used the popular “Tank for Tua” narrative as a rallying cry, relishing the role of spoilers. The crazy part is Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered a season-ending hip injury and now is no longer even sure to enter the draft, let alone be the No. 1 overall pick.

For more on the Giants, listen to the latest episode of the “Blue Rush” podcast:

“That’s all fan stuff,” Giants linebacker Deone Bucannon said. “Of course as an individual you are a fan of different college players if you watch, but that’s the most it gets to. Not, ‘I hope we get him.’

“I can’t control who we get it. That’s front-office stuff. Tanking doesn’t even make sense, especially if you say it before the season. That’s fans hoping when they have a player in mind they want. But if you do that, then you are going to get kicked out the league.”

The Giants ruled out quarterback Daniel Jones (ankle), tight ends Evan Engram (foot) and Rhett Ellison (concussion), and guard Kevin Zeitler (ankle/wrist). Cornerback Corey Ballentine will return after missing one game with his second concussion of the season.