By Ernie Palladino
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It’s amazing how things sometimes work in the NFL.
In any given year a team might win 10 games and miss the playoffs, as the Giants did in 2010. In another year — let’s say for argument’s sake, this one — it might drop four straight right off the bat and still have the possibility of playing meaningful games in December.
That, too, is where the Giants stand right now. Oh-and-4, Oh-and-Woe. And thanks to a pack of NFC East teams that can’t seem to get out of their own way, the Giants sit just two games off the Cowboys’ division lead.
As they face Chip Kelly’s fast-moving but slow-starting Eagles on Sunday at MetLife, there is the distinct possibility that even a mediocre effort could produce a victory. And since the Cowboys play the Broncos with Peyton Manning and his core of other-worldly receivers, the Giants could well wake up Monday a game off the pace.
This, after losing their first four games.
In a normal year, such a start would doom a franchise early. Sell the tickets to a friend, stay home and watch the unfolding fiasco on TV by the cozy fireplace. It could still happen, of course. Just let Tom Coughlin’s struggling team get steamrolled by Philadelphia’s warp-speed offense and the TV cameras will be catching loads of empty seats on every lofted pass Eli Manning throws from here on in.
But this is not a normal year, apparently. Kansas City is way up, looking like a playoff team after five out of six years well below .500. Seattle, building off its success of last year, hasn’t lost. While nobody was looking, Detroit built a 3-1 mark in the NFC North. And Tom Brady, with only Julian Edelman as a prime receiver, somehow has the Patriots at 4-0 in the other conference.
Heck, even the Dolphins are 3-1. And the 2-2 Browns still have a season going.
The operative word here is season, however. If the Giants win Sunday, they can at least keep their season alive. Not that they’ll have a lot of precedent to base that on. Only the 1992 Chargers made the playoffs after an 0-4 start, and that’s because they ripped off 11 wins over their final 12 outings. Anyone care to make that bet with this aging, battered Giants roster?
Does anyone really want to place their faith in a team where three first-round picks in Hakeem Nicks, David Wilson, and Jason Pierre-Paul are playing like mid-rounders, if that?
But, hey, beat the Eagles. And if Dallas loses to Denver, the season takes on an entirely different look for at least a week.
“The NFC, it’s crazy,” Pierre-Paul said this week. “But (the Giants and Eagles) are playing to save our seasons. We’re both playing for something.”
Then, fans can engage in a small flight of fancy. Chicago (3-1), Minnesota (1-3), and Philadelphia (1-3) follow before the bye. Depending on how things look Monday morning, with a little luck the Giants could hit the bye at 4-4. Do that, and a meaningful December would not be out of the question.
A lot has to happen before then, however. Manning must stop throwing to those wearing opposing colors. The offensive line, which will get veteran David Diehl back, has to keep Manning from being beaten to death, ostensibly by blocking well enough to produce some semblance of a ground game.
And the defense has to hit Michael Vick. Repeatedly. And hard.
That’s a lot. At this point, it’s about as complicated as giving Frankenstein a total beauty makeover.
But the way things are in the NFC East, such a turnaround does lie within the realm of possibility.
It has to happen Sunday, though. Already, just a quarter of the way through the schedule, the Giants are running out of chances.
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