They may not win this division in the end (more on that in a moment), and the title is right up there with being declared the best pig at the county fair, but at least it’s time to acknowledge what they are – and yes, what embattled GM Dave Gettleman has built. They are the best, most solid, most dangerous team in this crummy division.
Their impressive, 27-17 win over the division-leading Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday made that crystal clear.
"We’re finally really feeling that sense of team,” said running back Wayne Gallman. “We’re just all coming together and it’s all playing out for itself. We know what we have.”
What they have is a team playing football better than any other team in their division – and yes, everyone understands that bar is painfully low this season. The Eagles (now 3-5-1) may have been the division leaders, but they are really no different than any other team in this historically awful group. They’re bad. Really bad.
But what the Giants (3-7) did to them on Sunday was indeed pretty good. It was as good a full-team effort as they’ve had all season long. Their defense has carried them to competitiveness for most of this season. But against the Eagles, the offense finally decided to play along.
And really, that’s been the missing piece all season standing between the Giants and mediocrity. They had been getting nothing from quarterback Daniel Jones and the offense. In fact, his turnovers and the offensive struggles had been more of an impediment than anything else and probably cost the Giants at least two or three wins. The Giants are 3-3 over the last six games and those three losses came by a total of six points. In each case, they could’ve won if the offense had just one less turnover, one more sustained drive.
Against the Eagles, they pulled their weight. They didn’t turn the ball over at all. And not only did they open the game with two touchdown drives, they opened the second half with another. And they even managed two short field goal drives in the final eight minutes to put the game away.
Maybe good teams do that routinely, but teams in the NFC East don’t. The fact that the Giants proved they can gives them a lot to think about as they head into the bye week. Most importantly they can think about this: Who’s better than them?
“We know we’re a pretty good football team,” said safety Jabrill Peppers. “We’re taking steps. We still have a long way to go. We’re definitely taking steps. I def believe we’re a better team today than we were three weeks ago. You just build off that.
”That will be the key as the Giants get perilously close to the meaningful December games that was co-owner John Mara’s stated goal. Because now that they’re tied with the division leaders in the win column and just two games back in the loss column with six games to go, they’ve given themselves a chance.
But the task remains daunting. When they come out of their bye week they have a winnable game against the Cincinnati Bengals. But when December starts, they face a Murderers’ Row. They play at Seattle, at home against Arizona and Cleveland, and then in Baltimore – four winning teams on the fast track to the playoffs. They Giants are going to have to win at least one of those games and probably two, and then they’ll still face a must-win finale at home against Dallas on Jan. 3.
That feels impossible. But really, the schedules facing the other division teams aren’t much easier. And...well, NFC East teams are 2-18-1 in non-division games, so those types of wins down the stretch figure to be rare. That’s why even stealing one win in that killer stretch might prove to be enough.
The Giants just might be in the best position to do it, too. They have proven that right now they are better than the Eagles and they’ve proven they’re better than Washington twice. And the Cowboys just aren’t the same without Dak Prescott, so given their issues the Giants look a heck of a lot better than them, too.
And with two straight wins they are undeniably improving. No other division team can say that.
“I think we’ve improved in a number of areas,” said Giants coach Joe Judge. “I think the more time our players continually spend in our systems, the more they understand and the more we can build on.”
“I definitely think we’re headed in the right direction,” said cornerback James Bradberry. “We’re definitely in a good position heading into the bye week.”
Yes they are. And they are in position to look at the standings, even though Judge seems to be discouraging them from doing that. He called the fact that they’re in the NFC East race “irrelevant” and he’s clearly conditioned his players to keep their focus on one game at a time.
That’s fine, and it’s probably the right approach. But for everyone else, the standings are a sight to behold. If the Eagles lose at Cleveland on Sunday they’ll look even better, because then the Giants will have their Thanksgiving dinner knowing they’re just a sliver away from the division lead.
They’ll deserve it, too, because no one in this division is playing better football right now. And since the winner of this dumpster fire still gets a playoff berth in the end, that counts as a significant accomplishment. And that could be enough to make December a lot more interesting and fun for the Giants than it has been for a while.