Time for the New York Giants to Send a Message

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistSeptember 21, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 8:  Head coach  of the New York Giants Tom Coughlin talks with Eli Manning #10 against the San Diego Chargers at Giants Stadium on November 8, 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Chargers defeated the Giants 21-20.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Maybe Las Vegas hasn't learned its lesson. Those in charge of handicapping NFL football games are quickly losing faith in the New York Giants

Two weeks ago, before opening the season against the Dallas Cowboys, online gaming site Bovada gave the G-Men 25-to-1 Super Bowl odds. Last week, those odds dropped to 33-to-1, and now, as they prepare for the Carolina Panthers this weekend, that number has sunk to 40-to-1. 

That's macro, but the micro odds aren't being any more generous. Last year on this very same weekend, the Giants followed up two lackluster season-opening performances by rolling into Charlotte and crushing the Carolina Panthers 36-7. For that game, they were a 2.5-point underdog. 

One year later, the Giants are once again rolling into Charlotte after two lackluster season-opening performances. The Panthers are 0-2, and yet the line in Vegas still favors Carolina.

And yes, the Giants are 0-2 this time around. It's the first time they've started a regular season with back-to-back losses since 2007. But that year, with the same quarterback and the same head coach and many of the same key contributors on both sides of the ball, they went on to win the freakin' Super Bowl. 

So, are we giving up on Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning and Co. too early? Every one of the 30 teams that's started 0-2 since 2009 has failed to make the playoffs, but even before that the chances of playing January football after falling behind like that were slim. Still, the Giants have often excelled right when the chips seem to be stacked against them, as we saw in that historic '07 campaign. 

I won't call this a must-win game. Seriously. Only three teams in NFL history have made the playoffs after starting 0-3, but the NFC East is too flimsy and the Giants are too sneaky. They can lose this game and still contend. 

That said, based on what happened against this very same Carolina team in a similar situation one year ago, this game could be viewed as somewhat of a barometer for how talented and how resilient the 2013 Giants might be.

There's a reason Vegas doesn't believe. The team's a mess. Since the 1970 merger, only four teams have turned it over more in the first two weeks of the season than the Giants have this year, and only three quarterbacks have thrown more interceptions during the first two weeks than Manning has.

This team has always leaned on the pass rush, but less-than-100-percent stud defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has been a ghost. Second-year back David Wilson, who was the Giants' first-round pick in 2012, has lost Coughlin's trust. Brandon Jacobs isn't the answer either, and the offensive line is already taking heat.

Their best linebacker (whoever that is) wouldn't start for the majority of NFL defenses. The secondary, which was abused last year, is thinned out, and now Corey Webster is hurt too.

Dating back to the beginning of November last season, the team has lost seven of 10 games. It's just ugly.  

It's been 17 years since the Giants started 0-3, but considering all of those circumstances, it's not surprising that streak is in real jeopardy this weekend. This is a team that has missed the playoffs three of the last four years, causing many—including yours truly—to wonder if lightning merely struck twice in 2007 and 2011 and a decent team was in the right place at the right time on two occasions in the span of half a decade.

With another challenge looming next week in Kansas City, this is the Giants' chance to tell the football world that they're still elite. They won't be done if they lose to Carolina, and even a victory by a slim margin will be appreciated given the circumstances, but what this team needs is a blowout.

The Giants need to get all of the frustration out of their system Sunday and put a mediocre but still dangerous young Carolina team in its place, just as they did 366 days ago.