By Steve Silverman
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A 5-5 record has been good enough to put the Giants in first place in the disappointing NFC East.

The Giants have blown fourth-quarter leads in four of their losses, and if they had been able to manage themselves well at the end of those games, they could easily be 7-3 or 8-2.

As much as it hurt, Sunday’s loss to the Patriots was the most encouraging game they have played all season. They went toe-to-toe with Bill Belichick’s undefeated crew and were probably the better team for the majority of the game. This is the same Patriots team that has dismantled just about every other opponent, so there is reason to take something positive from that game.

However, all of that will mean nothing when the Giants come back from their bye week. They have a tough slate of six games remaining that includes Washington at the start and Philadelphia at the finish, with the Jets, Miami, Carolina and Minnesota in between.

Based on the way they played against the Patriots, they could go 5-1 or 6-0. Based on the way they played against Philadelphia in Week 6, they could go 1-5 or 2-4.

It’s time for the Giants to step up as this division is there for the taking. If they didn’t know it before, the Eagles are not the runaway freight train that Chip Kelly expected them to be at this point in the season. The Birds got off to a miserable start and they have not reached their stride at any point.

Former Rams quarterback Sam Bradford was expected to be the savior because Kelly saw a superstar just waiting to have an explosive year. That explosion never came, and after Bradford suffered a concussion and a separated left shoulder, Mark Sanchez will be the man over for the next couple of weeks at least.

New York football fans know exactly what kind of quarterback Sanchez is. He’s either going to play a good game for 55 minutes and then get you beat at the end, or play an awful game that results in a blowout from jump street.

If the Eagles can’t turn it around quickly and rescue their season by making the playoffs, there’s a very good chance that the Kelly era could come to an end in Philadelphia. He may know more about coaching than any other leader on the planet, but he has not won a playoff game during his tenure.

There were times in each of the last two years that Kelly’s team did seem a little better and sharper than most NFL teams, but the Eagles have never been able to sustain that performance.

Kelly’s legacy as a college coach was impressive, and that’s where he could end up if the 2015 season ends up as a failure. USC has not filled its permanent head coaching position after parting company with besotted Steve Sarkisian, and this long-rumored situation may be Kelly’s best alternative.

The problem for the Giants could be the Redskins. At the start of the season, the Redskins and the Chicago Bears were rated as the two worst teams in the league by many of the preseason publications.

But instead of a woe-is-me attitude, both Jay Gruden and John Fox rolled up their sleeves and went to work. Gruden made the most critical decision of perhaps any coach in the league, as he took one more good, hard, long look at Robert Griffin III and he believed what his eyes saw. He decisively put RGIII on the bench and has left him there all season.

Kirk Cousins may be unheralded, but he has played the QB position well and the Redskins are 4-5. They have been competitive nearly every week, and the Giants should be very concerned.

The Redskins just took apart New Orleans 47-14 last week as Cousins threw four TD passes without an interception, and that’s the same Saints team that beat the Giants 52-49 just three weeks ago.

Throwing out that New Orleans game because the Saints don’t have an NFL-caliber defense, Cousins has given the Redskins a decent performance. He is not a star, but he has shown he can read defenses and take what he’s given.

He doesn’t have stars on his offense, but Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed are all good enough to take advantage of a Giants defense that has been erratic, to say the least.

If the defense is similar to the one that slowed down the Patriots for a good portion of the game — Tom Brady was held to two TD passes — the Giants should be able to set the tone for their closing stretch by beating the Redskins.

If it is more like the defense that did not show up at New Orleans, they will start the home stretch with a crushing defeat.

The Giants are better than that, but do they truly know it?

Follow Steve on Twitter at @ProFootballBoy

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