COMMENTARY | Aaron Rodgers' broken collarbone might be just the break the New York Giants needed to turn a season that was going nowhere into one that could still include playoff possibilities in December.
No doubt, long before that Giant leap of faith can take place, New York has some further improvement to do.
Sans Rodgers, the Second Half Schedule Starts Favorably
But the way the schedule breaks to start the second half of their season, the Giants might have a realistic opportunity to compete for an NFC East title.
Although New York wasn't all that impressive in stopping a season-starting, six-game losing streak with its first two victories of the year, the Giants figure to have a more than a decent chance of winning their first three games -- all of which are at home -- as they start the second half well-rested, following their bye week.
Of course, nothing will be guaranteed the way New York has played this season, but going five weeks -- from the Giants' last home game, in Week 8, until their next one, in Week 13 -- without having to hit the road, helps to get everyone on the same page in practices and with scouting the opposition.
Should the Giants win that contest as expected, the game that would have figured to derail their comeback plans would be the next one at MetLife Stadium, against Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers -- except, with Rodgers suddenly out for the next several weeks after being injured against Chicago last Sunday night, facing either Seneca Wallace or Scott Tolzien makes that game appear quite winnable for New York.
Coming to the Meadowlands the following week, is the team the Giants really have their sights on -- the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys -- who after a visit to New Orleans as 6½-point underdogs this week, and sitting out the week New York plays Green Bay, could very likely be 5-5 and only a game up on the Giants for that meeting.
While the Philadelphia Eagles (4-5) could win their next two games (at Green Bay and at home, against Washington), and pass both Dallas and New York for first place in the division by then, a Giants win over the Cowboys -- whom New York nearly beat on the road, in Week 1 -- would at minimum, put Big Blue right back in the mix to compete for the NFC East crown.
After playing Dallas, the Giants' final five weeks of the season have seemingly very challenging trips to San Diego and Detroit, but they also play the struggling Washington Redskins (3-6) twice.
Those games are rarely easy for New York, and although the Redskins went from their current record to 10-6 and capturing the NFC East title last year, they don't appear to be ready to do anything close to that again this season. And if the Giants can sweep those two meetings, along with a home win over the Cowboys, they can finish 4-2 within the division and be in the conversation with Dallas and Philadelphia for any potential NFC East tiebreakers.
The Giants' Personnel Has Come Back Before
The above scenarios assume a lot, but they're certainly a lot more realistic now than when New York was sitting at 0-6 and looking at a second half schedule that included a seemingly tougher game against Rodgers in Week 11.
And if there is any group in the NFL that knows what it takes to accomplish the improbable, it's the one led by head coach Tom Coughlin, quarterback Eli Manning, and several other Giants players on offense and defense who collectively, have already gone through the process of persevering from a team that was counted out, to winning Super Bowls.
Unlike with those years, expecting that same ending after a 0-6 start is probably asking too much this time, especially since an NFL team has never reached the postseason after losing its first six games of the season.
Yet with the scheduling stars possibly aligning just right for New York, the Giants can think about another run if they can take advantage of their upcoming three-game home stand.
Despite Losing David Wilson, the Giants' Running Game is Deeper
To do that, and more, New York has to fix continued woes along its problematic offensive line and special teams.
However, an improved defense -- one that hasn't allowed a point in its past nine quarters, nor a touchdown in its past 10 periods -- provides hope.
As does a deeper running game, which can help set up the Giants' biggest strength, their dangerous passing game. Although running back David Wilson is done for the year with a neck injury, the recent return of Brandon Jacobs and the addition of Peyton Hillis, along with getting Andre Brown back from injury this week against Oakland, gives the Giants more numerous and potentially more productive options in the backfield.
To be taken seriously at all, New York has to first win its next three games and sniff the .500 mark. But unlike the way it seemed when the Giants were winless, that's now a viable possibility.
Jonathan Wagner is a regular contributor for Yahoo Sports, covering the New York Knicks, New York Giants and New York Mets. You can also catch him as a Knicks beat writer for New York Sports Day and a co-host discussing a variety of sports topics on the New York Sports Geeks internet radio show. Follow him on Twitter, @JonathanJWagner.
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