Washington just beat the Cowboys with Colt McCoy at quarterback, the Steelers just dropped 51 points on the Colts, and the Giants hopefully observed these developments and concluded, “Hot damn, this NFL season is wide open!”
Eli Manning and the G-Men have won two Super Bowls since 2007, and in neither instance were they considered favorites as the postseason began.
In 2007, when the Giants ended the Patriots’ bid for an undefeated season, New York was 10-6 and entered the playoffs as the No. 5 seed.
In 2011, when the Giants ended the Patriots’ bid to wash 2007 out of their mouths, New York went 9-7 and entered the playoffs as the No. 4 seed after winning the NFC East.
This year, when ending the Patriots’ season would be a hilarious hat trick, the Giants have the opportunity to finish with a better record than either of their two recent Super Bowl-winning seasons. The biggest difference? The Giants are 3-4 entering Week 9 this year, whereas they were 6—2 at the same point in 2007 and 5-2 at the same point in 2011.
People like to remember the Giants as upstart, out-of-the-blue teams in those Super Bowl-winning years, but they really weren’t. They were just wildly inconsistent, and they chose the second-half of the season (though obviously not the playoffs) to be the Hyde to their Jekyll.
This year they’ll have to flip the script.
The 2014 Giants are a team that can beat the also-rans of the league (Houston, Washington, Atlanta) but can’t play complete games against the contenders (Detroit, Arizona, Philadelphia, Dallas).
So who do they start the second half of the season playing? Four straight contenders: Indianapolis, @Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas.
“Well, those are four definite losses,” said every NFL observer when the schedule was released.
Indeed when the team assessed the schedule upon its release, this stretch of games looked like “Murderers' Row,” General Manager Jerry Reese said this week.
Time has a way of changing things.
No, these four games aren’t a Punch-and--Judy stretch (which happens to be the secret exercise routine that makes Giants punter Steve Weatherford the fittest player in the NFL), but how differently do people feel about these four teams now than, say, a week ago?
The Colts just made Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers look like the 1999 Rams.
The Seahawks are a soap opera, trading their best home-run threat (Percy Harvin) because he apparently treated teammates like WWE props, and are now deflecting questions about a supposedly malcontent star RB (Marshawn Lynch) and a quarterback who is supposedly not black enough for some teammates (Russell Wilson).
Luckily for Pete Carroll, NFL titles cannot be vacated.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, just lost to Washington at home, with quarterback Tony Romo reinjuring his back and Jerry Jones oddly injecting himself in the sideline decision of whether Romo should be reinserted into the game.
And the 49ers, well, they are good, and will soon be getting back some key contributors, with Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis set to return. I can’t convince myself the Giants can beat them – either during the season or in the postseason.
Run away, Giants, don’t go near the Niners! Just hope and pray that the Packers or Saints can knock them off in January. There’s no shame in that. What, you think the Steelers reached three recent Super Bowls by beating New England? Hell no, they gave them a WIDE berth and never played them once in those playoffs.
But the Colts and their sieve-like defense? The Seahawks and their soap opera distractions? The Cowboys and their tendency to play like the Cowboys? All winnable games. (Say it with me! Drink the Kool-Aid!)
If the Giants can go 3-1 over the next month, they’ll be 6-5 with this remaining schedule: @Jacksonville, @Tennessee, Washington, @St. Louis, Philadelphia.
Even if they only go 2-2 (because fine, winning in Seattle is unlikely), they’ll be 5-6 heading into a five-game homestretch that includes four very winnable games and a season-ending matchup against a hated rival.
Is this all a best-case scenario? Of course it is, but it's Halloween and I’m dressing the Giants up as a potential contender, if only for today.