By Steve Silverman
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There were those closing one-liners that were at the tail end of so many of the features that were written about the Giants early in the season. That despite their 0-3, 0-4 or 0-5 record, they still had a chance because they were playing in the weak NFC East.
This division, that once housed powerhouses coached by Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs, Jimmy Johnson and Buddy Ryan, had turned into the laughingstock of the NFL.
The Cowboys may be the most talented of the group, but they can’t play consistently and they don’t know how to hold a fourth-quarter lead.
Mike Shanahan had a plan, but he had a quarterback in Robert Griffin III who was simply not ready to play the way he did when he was a rookie who went by the name of RGIII.
The Eagles were relying on the genius of rookie head coach Chip Kelly to lead them out of the quicksand.
The Giants fell to 0-6 and the hole appeared to be getting deeper and wider when they dropped a winnable game in Chicago. Eli Manning was simply abysmal, the defense had lost its bite and Tom Coughlin needed to enjoy his retirement.
But as the season reaches its stretch run, the Giants have some hope. They have won three games in a row and this week’s game is against a Green Bay Packers team that is down to its third-string quarterback. If they were playing against Aaron Rodgers, the Packers would have a chance to put 38 points on the board like they did in last year’s Week 12 matchup.
This time, Green Bay will line up with Scott Tolzien under center. Tolzien is a hard-trying, good-effort guy who was brought up from the Packers’ practice squad after Rodgers suffered a fractured left collarbone in a Week 9 Monday night game against the Bears.
Seneca Wallace, Rodgers’ backup, suffered a groin injury last week, and that’s how Tolzien entered the picture.
Tolzien played fairly well in the Packers’ loss to the Eagles last week. He completed 24 of 39 passes for 280 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
If you listen to Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, Tolzien is something of a wonder boy because he was able to step in after Wallace got hurt and keep his team competitive against the Eagles.
What McCarthy is trying to do is build up Tolzien’s confidence as he prepares for his first start against the Giants.
That’s a smart thing to do, because many backup quarterbacks can step in after an injury and finish a game. However, it’s quite another thing to prepare all week and start a game on the road.
This is an opportunity for the Giants to pick up their fourth consecutive win. They must pressure Tolzien and the Packers and not give them any reason for hope. Score a couple of touchdowns early and increase the pressure on the substitute quarterback.
If the Giants can follow that game plan, they really will have a shot to make a run at the division. They get the Cowboys at home in Week 12 before they go to Washington and take on the Redskins.
Does anyone really think that the Cowboys won’t do something to give the Giants an opportunity to win the game in the fourth quarter? Is there any reason to think that the Redskins’ defense will suddenly assert itself and play for 60 minutes when it ranks 27th overall and appears to be significantly slower than nearly every other defense in the league?
That would get the Giants to .500. A six-game winning streak after a six-game losing streak would be the rarest of accomplishments.
But there’s a chance to make it happen. All it will take is just a little bit of improvement from Manning and the defense this week, and then maintaining that level against the Cowboys and Redskins.
Somehow, some way, the Giants are alive and kicking.
All they have to do is take down a third-string quarterback, and they will have their opportunity.
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