They'd never admit it, because it's bad for business to do so and because they're an old-school organization that doesn't share much in the first place, but the New York Giants could find themselves in a strange spot if they win this weekend in Philadelphia.
The Giants started 0-6. No team has ever made the NFL playoffs after digging such a hole. In fact, nobody has ever even started 0-5 and made the playoffs, and only one team has accomplished the feat after starting 0-4.
Their chances aren't good. Probably somewhere between one out of a hundred and one of out of million. But they still have a chance, and a second straight victory would only increase those long-shot odds.
In fact, if the Giants beat the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys fall in Detroit, where they're Vegas underdogs, then New York would find itself just two games out of first place in the NFC East despite a 2-6 record.
They wouldn't be the Lloyd Christmas of the NFL for liking their chances. Why? Because this division comes down to the wire every year, as Dallas, Philly and Washington aren't consistent or particularly reliable, and because Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning have a reputation for making magical, improbable runs.
A loss to the Eagles simplifies things. It pretty much eliminates any remaining hope of an amazing redemption. At 1-7, you're done. But in this division, at 2-6, you're alive. If the Cowboys lose, then they're really alive.
That's one reason why Sunday's results will and probably should determine how the Giants approach the second half of their season. They enter the bye week after this, and the trade deadline is Tuesday. Hakeem Nicks is a two-time 1,000-yard receiver with an expiring contract. If this team is 1-7, trading Nicks will make a hell of a lot more sense than if it's two games out of first place.
That's what makes this tough, though, is that the chances for a remarkable turnaround are still faint regardless. On paper, a two-game margin with eight games remaining isn't overly daunting, and I realize that the Washington Redskins overcame an even larger deficit in less time last season, but the Cowboys are 3-0 within the division and have already defeated the Giants.
Besides, two victories over the 1-4 Panthers and 3-4 Eagles wouldn't be enough to convince me that a team as prone to mistakes as this one has suddenly turned things around, especially with so many injuries. Veteran offensive linemen David Baas and Chris Snee are gone, starting running back David Wilson remains out and top defensive player Jason Pierre-Paul has finally fessed up to the reality that he isn't 100 percent. Pierre-Paul told Tom Rock of Newsday on Thursday that "it really is going to take that whole offseason to get back to the old JPP."
|NFL: Worst point differentials, 2013|
|32. Jacksonville Jaguars||-146||0-7|
|31. New York Giants||-90||1-6|
|30. Houston Texans||-72||2-5|
|Pro Football Reference|
This is no secret, but I just don't think the Giants have it in them. Which is why a win in Philly could give them enough false hope to ultimately do more harm than good. If they drop even two more games the rest of the year, they miss the playoffs anyway.
But maybe, because they win Sunday, they hold onto Nicks and lose out on a draft pick. What a shame that would be. And maybe by refusing to do any sort of selling before the deadline, they win an extra game or two, costing them prime first-round positioning in the 2014 draft.
|Current NFL draft order: Top five picks|
|1||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||0-7|
|3||New York Giants||1-6|
I know—fans aren't supposed to think this way, and players and coaches definitely aren't. But I'm not a fan, nor am I a player or a coach.
It's unnatural to let up. That's not what I'm suggesting. I'm just thinking that general manager Jerry Reese would be smart to approach the next few days with his head, not his heart, regardless of the emotional reaction that a victory in Philadelphia could yield.