The NFC Least: Two-win Giants still have a shot at winning football’s weakest division

NFL: New York Giants at Washington Football Team
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) runs against Washington Football Team defensive end Chase Young (99) during the third quarter at FedExField on Nov. 8, 2020.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants lost their star running back for the year, have a young quarterback still growing into the role and just two wins against the same team this year after nine games.

And yet, the Giants still have a chance at winning the NFC Eastern Division — sitting only a game back in the win column behind the first place, 3-4-1 Philadelphia Eagles.

Big Blue’s 23–20 win over the Washington Football Team was a battle of attrition more than anything resembling a crisp, clean professional football game. The team representing our nation’s capitol made plenty of mistakes along the way, and the Giants defense took advantage of five turnovers en route to victory.

Behind center for the G-Men, quarterback Daniel Jones played rather well, throwing a touchdown pass and 212 total yards while completing 67% of his passes. He also avoided the interception bug that has plagued him all season; to date, he’s thrown eight touchdown passes but has been picked off nine times, good enough for a below-average quarterback rating of 76.1.

Running back Wayne Galman, filling in for the sidelined star Saquan Barkley, also had a decent game Sunday, rushing for a touchdown and 68 yards in 14 attempts. It was his third straight week in which his yardage grew, a possible sign of an improving running game for Big Blue.

The Giants’ defense and special teams enjoyed a solid Sunday against Washington. Along with taking advantage of five turnovers, Big Blue’s defensive line held the opponents to 402 total yards, just 37 of which came on the ground.

All in all, the Giants looked well enough to contend in beating Washington for the second and final time this regular season. But they’ve yet to beat another team in the league while firmly in the second half of the campaign.

Mistakes killed the Giants in their Nov. 2 matchup against Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They were also blown out earlier this year by the now 4-5 San Francisco 49ers. Yet they played close enough to win their other games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams.

They also lost tough games against their other division rivals in the NFC “Least” — including the first-place Eagles in a 22-21 heartbreaker on Oct. 22, and the injury-hobbled, 2-7 Dallas Cowboys in a 34-31 defeat on Oct. 11.

Screenshot via Google

It is not beyond the realm of possibility that seven, or even just six wins, will be good enough for this year’s NFC Eastern Division Champion. But none of the four teams in the division would care about a losing record if it means a slot in the playoffs and at least the chance at winning the Super Bowl.

The Giants aren’t that much worse than the Eagles, Cowboys or Washington. They are still in it to win it, and they have some time to mount a run at the postseason.

That begins this Sunday, Nov. 15, at MetLife Stadium with a home game against the Eagles. Beating the birds would put the Giants even with Philadelphia in the win column with six games remaining. 

After a bye week on Nov. 22, however, and a Nov. 29 matchup against the 2-5-1 Cincinnati Bengals, the road gets tougher for Big Blue.

The last five games of the 2020 season have the Giants facing a road game against the 6-2 Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 6, then returning home to play the 5-3 Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 13 and the 5-3 Cleveland Browns on Dec. 20; a trip to Baltimore on Dec. 27 to play the 6-2 Ravens; and then the season finale against the Cowboys in New Jersey on Jan. 3.

The Eagles’ schedule isn’t much easier. After next week’s matchup with the Giants, they play the Browns on Nov. 22; the Seahawks on Nov. 29; the 6-2 Green Bay Packers on Dec. 6; the 6-2 New Orleans Saints on Dec. 13; and the Cardinals on Dec. 20. They close out the season with games against the Cowboys on Dec. 27 and Washington on Jan. 3.

From merely a schedule standpoint, the Eagles have the edge — but only because they play two NFC East teams in the last two weeks of the season. 

If rookie head coach Joe Judge can help Jones and the Giants step up in the last seven games of this season and go 4-3 down the stretch, they actually stand a decent chance at shocking everyone with a division crown and a spot in the postseason.

A 6-10 Giants team wouldn’t stand much of a chance in the playoffs — but just getting there would be a nice surprise to end a dreary sports year in New York.

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