How many other NFL teams, past or present, could safely say at 2-6 that their season was still hanging in the balance?
Such is the state of the NFC East in the 2013 season where the New York Giants find themselves as many victories off the pace in the division as they have mustered in total. In a comforting precedent for the current campaign, the Giants were the only team in the division to win a game in Week 8 after toppling the Philadelphia Eagles 15-7.
Whilst the Dallas Cowboys still remain, on paper, the strongest outfit in the division, they cannot seem to shake the last-gasp heartbreak that has become their unwanted stereotype. After leading for the majority of the game, the Cowboys allowed the Detroit Lions to drive the length of the field with only a minute remaining on the clock to obtain the unlikely victory. This is now a staple of the Tony Romo-led Cowboys and as long as it continues, their status as playoff contenders will always come into question.
The quarterback carousel has rolled around again in Philadelphia, and it’s anybody’s guess which way they will turn next. Just two weeks ago Nick Foles was the future and Michael Vick‘s time was up; one week later the Eagles faithful were out in force, clamoring for Vick after Foles failed to live up to their (and his fantasy football owners’) expectations against the Cowboys. Then there is the small matter-of-fact that somehow, by hook or by crook, rookie Matt Barkley keeps finding himself under center. The rotation is evidently hurting the Eagles who are dropping off the pace in the division having now lost back-to-back games against NFC East rivals, scoring a solitary 10 points in the process.
Of course we should not forget nor discount the Washington Redskins, although they remain above the Giants in the division merely because they’ve played one less game. They’ve plenty talent in possession of the ball, though Robert Griffin III has struggled to recapture his rookie-season form whilst nursing an injury hangover that goes back to last season’s playoffs. The Skins defense is also a major defect that is undercutting any good work that their offense can muster. Washington has now allowed a second-highest 229 points overall this season, more than the Giants, which by 2013 standards is really saying something.
Whether it be by the misfortune of others or their own mini-revival, the Giants are in the mix. Bearing in mind that they have produced a winning streak of four-or-more games in each of the last seven seasons, they are a team that regularly rides the momentum train to success. After gaining their second win in a row and, in addition, stopping their opposition from registering an offensive score in the same period, the Giants’ next three games are set to be season defining.
The Giants hit their bye this week and have a chance to put the ‘three R’s’ into practice: relax, regroup and reflect. Following this respite, the Giants’ schedule has thrown up three-consecutive home games and ample opportunity to continue gaining ground in the division. Home-field advantage is something that the Giants have used sparingly since the opening of MetLife Stadium, though there is a strong case for them to knock out a ‘W’ in each of the three forthcoming match-ups. The Oakland Raiders are first up, going coast-to-coast out of their comfort zone, out of their time zone and having lost all three of their road games this season so far. Following that are the Green Bay Packers who need no introduction, though they have proven to be beatable outside of Lambeau Field this year as both of their defeats have come on their travels. The Dallas Cowboys complete the trio and will arrive with mixed emotions of their experiences in the Meadowlands. If the Giants are riding a four-game winning streak by then the Cowboys will be under increasing pressure, something that they have historically struggled to deal with.
Either way you look at it, this is a golden opportunity for the Giants who are steadily improving. Not only do they have two weeks to prepare for their next challenge, but they can spend the following three weeks in comfortable and familiar surroundings without the need for travel or upheaval. The NFC East standings are so compact that not every remaining game is a ‘must win’, but the next three are imperative.