We pick it up late in the fourth quarter, with the Giants and Saints tied up at 13. Facing a third-and-8 in Saints territory, Eli Manning hits Victor Cruz for 34 yards down the right sideline as he gets taken down at the two-yard line. New Orleans burns their final timeout.
Giants' bettors begin to rejoice as this is obviously a great opportunity for New York to punch it into the end zone and cover the spread (-3.5 closing line, -5 earlier in the week). Unfortunately for Giants' bettors, Ben McAdoo isn't worried about covering spreads—he's worried about winning the game. Eli Manning comes out of the huddle and kneels for a loss of one yard. The Giants let the play clock run all the way down to one second and then burn a timeout, and at this point, New York ATS backers know they're cooked. Eli took two more knees and Josh Brown eventually kicked the game-winning chip shot to give the Giants a 16-13 victory.
This wasn't exactly a popular decision by any means
Now, if the Giants had decided to go for the touchdown, there are two possible scenarios:
1. The Saints play actual defense and try to stop the Giants offense, or
2. The Saints intentionally let the Giants offense score
In scenario #1, the Giants are highly likely to score in some capacity. The only real way that they blow it here is if they somehow turn the ball over via a fumble, or interception (which is almost never going to happen because New York is extremely, extremely, extremely unlikely to throw in this situation), or, of course, if their game-winning field goal try is no good (and the Saints win in overtime). In this scenario, the Giants still win the game approximately 99.5%
of the time.
However, let's assume for a minute that Saints head coach Sean Payton understands the percentages, and realizes it would be smart for the Saints defense to just let the Giants score (scenario #2). For argument sake, we'll assume that it takes the Giants five seconds to get into the end zone. If New York went up 20-13 with 1:27 left in the fourth quarter and kicked off to the Saints, we project New York to win roughly 98.5%
of the time (remember, the Saints have also burned all of their timeouts at this point). There is also a rare scenario where the Giants miss the PAT on their touchdown, and their win expectancy drops to 97.4%
Neither of these scenarios came to fruition though, because head coach Ben McAdoo made the right call. By having Manning take three straight knees and burn the remainder of the time on the clock, the Giants' win expectancy was 99.7%
. We're talking about small percentage points here, but it's the head coach's job to put his team in the best position to win, and McAdoo did just that. After enduring years of Tom Coughlin mismanaging the clock late in games, McAdoo must be a breath of fresh air for Giants fans. I'm sure Giants' spread bettors disagree.