If the New York Giants can snap out of their funk in the next three weeks, they could take control of an NFC East where, for now, they are also-rans.
The Giants face first-place Dallas on Sunday, then host Philadelphia before traveling to Washington. It’s the kind of stretch that can make or break a season, although third-place New York (6-5) has done quite a job jeopardizing its playoff chances by losing five of its last six games.
In some quarters, the Giants are being written off, particularly if they can’t sweep the Cowboys (8-3), Eagles (7-4) and Redskins (3-7).
Article continues below ...
“Coach (Tom) Coughlin tells us that talk is cheap,” linebacker Danny Clark said Wednesday. “This is one of those weeks where we can say, ‘Put your money where your mouth is. Go out and do it.”‘
It’s more like three weeks where the Giants need to do that, because a victory over the Cowboys would mean little without backing it up against Philly and Washington. But Sunday is the time to start.
“We have six (wins) and they have eight,” Clark said, boiling the Giants‘ situation down to its simplistic core. “At the end of Sunday, I’d like to be able to say, ‘We have seven and they still have eight and we’re right there.”‘
Both teams come off long rests, but with different mindsets. The Cowboys manhandled Oakland on Thanksgiving Day, hours before the Giants struggled in a loss at Denver. New York hasn’t played well for nearly two months, with its lone victory since Oct. 11 coming in overtime at home against Atlanta. The Giants‘ best performance of the season came in Week 2, when they edged Dallas 33-31 in the regular-season opener for Cowboys Stadium.
Although that win seems eons ago, it is something the Giants can’t totally forget. Sure, NFL teams claim they must live in the present, but there are positive lessons to be learned from that earlier victory.
“Going back over with our team the first game,” Coughlin said, “I thought for us to go into that environment, with all that had been postured all offseason with the opening of the new stadium, for us to have a defensive score and to force and recover a fumble with our kickoff coverage team, and to have the plus-4 in the turnover area … with the long drive at the end of the game for a touchdown, was certainly indicative of a quality football team with mental toughness and all those things that we believe we are and, hopefully, we can get back to that.”
Ah, getting back to that could take some doing. New York has struggled running the ball, and has injury problems in its backfield. It also is missing defensive leader Antonio Pierce; the middle linebacker was placed on injured reserve Monday with a disk problem in his neck.
While feasting early on weaklings such as Washington, Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Oakland to go 5-0, the Giants have flopped against quality opponents such as New Orleans, Arizona, San Diego, Philadelphia and Denver.
Now they get division-leader Dallas, followed by the Eagles. Time to step up.
“You never know what kind of game it’s going to be,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “It is important that whatever happens, we keep fighting and making it into a four-quarter game and try to win it in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve got to know that this is the same team that started 5-0. We have the ability and the talent to go out there and play great football and win games. We’ve got to expect that from ourselves.”