IF you are such a diehard that Giants blue is always on display, there is no need to heed what Joe Judge has to say. You are hooked and cannot be unhooked. But if your pride has wavered as your team lost more games in a three-year span than any other in the NFL, then take comfort in what the new head coach is forecasting.
Not yet, but soon, feel free to adorn yourself with all manners of Giants regalia, because you will be able to wear it with pride.
“I think we’re getting closer to putting a product on the field that hopefully people can see themselves in,’’ Judge said. “That people are proud to put on those blue caps or T-shirts on Mondays and go to work and celebrate that they root for the Giants. That’s something that’s important to us here. We want this team to be about the area. Not just about the guys in the building.’’
Promises will not make it so. The evidence is mounting, though, that action accompanies Judge’s words. The Giants are on the way up. The holes on the roster will prevent, for now, too steep of a rise, but a rise of some magnitude is coming. Not enough of course, to plow into a division race, not at 3-7 — unless it is 2020, when anything is possible, other than normalcy.
Contention and the Giants were incongruous and now they are not. With all their flaws and accumulated failure this season, the Giants can win the NFC East. It all comes down to this: Who plays the best football in the final seven weeks of the season?
Or, more in line with the company the Giants keep: Which of the four NFC East teams can avoid being totally lousy and wretched down the stretch?
Nothing that transpired before this matters. The Giants losing their first five games is meaningless. The Giants dropping to 1-7 at midseason is irrelevant. If the Giants come out of their bye week showing what is now more than suspected — that they are the most improved team in the NFC East — they will very likely win the NFC East.
If that happens, anyone who wants to decry the NFL system of awarding division winners a home playoff game, regardless of final record, can have at it. Imagine the ruckus Sean Payton (Saints) or Bruce Arians (Buccaneers) would create if their team finishes 11-5 and has to travel to empty, cold and possibly snowy or icy MetLife Stadium for a wild-card game against the 6-10 Giants. Same for the Cardinals, Rams or Seahawks, all currently 6-3. If the outcry is loud enough, perhaps it leads to the league at some point de-emphasizing first-place finishes and installing a record-centric seeding system.
Going 3-3 the rest of the way will be extremely challenging for the Giants, considering they face only two teams with losing records (Bengals and Cowboys) and the combined record of the other four opponents (Seahawks, Cardinals, Browns and Ravens) is 24-12.
Washington (2-7) and the Cowboys (2-7) are encountering severe quarterback issues and trending downward. The Eagles are 3-5-1 and that Week 3 tie against the Bengals, seemingly so damaging at the time, could actually be their favorable determining factor in winning the division. A tie being the difference in the NFC East this season would be fitting.
Anyone of the opinion gaining playoff admission at 6-10 is bogus is probably correct and also a bit of a gloomy Gus. Lighten up, Francis. The Giants could care less what it looks like. Judge is building this from the bottom up. The 27-17 victory over the Eagles, coming three weeks after blowing a lead in Philadelphia, is living proof that Judge’s messaging is getting through.
“Joe has been part of a lot of winning programs,’’ safety Jabrill Peppers said. “All we had to do was buy in. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. You have to stay bought in because it’s going to turn and we felt that.’’
Preparing a team for a playoff game is invaluable experience, whether that team is 10-6 or 6-10. It would do wonders for Daniel Jones, in his second NFL season. It would greatly benefit all the young players on the roster and also provide a boon for Judge himself. After three years helping Nick Saban prepare for postseason games at Alabama and eight years doing the same for Bill Belichick in New England, Judge would get a shot at it with his own team. That would mean something, no matter how Judge got his team there.
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