By Curt Macysyn
The New York Giants record sits at 2-6, and the team heads into its bye week with momentum courtesy of two straight victories. With New York’s win over NFC East rival Philadelphia and the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins both losing, the Giants pulled within two wins of the division lead. The question heading into the second half of the season becomes, can the Giants make up enough ground in the final eight games to make a serious run at the division title?
Here are the top three reasons why the Giants can and cannot make up the necessary ground over their final eight games.
How the Giants can win the NFC East
Limit the Turnovers
This should be a very simple and effective solution for the Giants. The G-Men are tied with the MetLife Stadium co-tenant New York Jets for last in the NFL in turnover margin at (-12). Quarterback Eli Manning has thrown 15 interceptions already this year, but none in the past two games, both victories. New York also has nine fumbles, which is second worst in the NFL. When they have won the turnover battle, the Giants have also won the game, so the focus will be on Manning to continue to be careful with the ball.
Make a commitment to run the ball
The Giants will welcome back Andre Brown after the bye week, and his return should bolster the running attack. Brandon Jacobs rushed for over 100 yards against the Chicago Bears, but injured his hamstring in that game and has missed the past two games. The Giants went out and signed veteran Peyton Hillis to get a running presence in the offensive backfield, and Hillis has performed well. Even with David Wilson out indefinitely with a neck injury, expect the Giants to allow the offensive line to get into a rhythm by using their backs more in the second half of the season.
The Division Stinks
The Giants season should have been over once they went 0-6, but the rest of the division could not handle prosperity. The Dallas Cowboys would seem to be in the best position to walk away with the NFC East, but they could not hold a lead against the Detroit Lions and dropped to 4-4. The Giants play host to Dallas on November 24, after the G-men host Oakland and Green Bay earlier in November. New York will need to sweep their first two November home games for the rematch with the Cowboys to have meaning, but no one said digging out of an 0-6 hole was going to be easy.
The Giants are finished with Philadelphia and split with the Eagles, but based upon the Birds’ performance the past two weeks, Big Blue should not expect any help from the Eagles either. Robert Griffin III and his Washington Redskins are a shell of the team that they were last season. New York has two contests left with the ‘Skins and would need to sweep those games to have a chance. But all of these scenarios are well within the reach of the Giants.
Why the Giants will not win the NFC East
All teams have injuries, but the key injuries on the Giants are the cornerback position and offensive line. On the offensive line the Giants have lost Chris Snee and David Baas for the season, and in the secondary, New York has lost Stevie Brown and Aaron Ross for the rest of 2013. Corey Webster is dealing with a groin issue and may not be right for the remainder of the year. Running back David Wilson (neck) may not be available to the team for the rest of the year too, and Andre Brown is coming off a broken leg. Middle linebacker Jon Beason has effectively replaced Dan Connor after Mark Herzlich could not, so that is a net positive for New York. Unfortunately, there are too many backups replacing key contributors, and the 2013 draft class, outside of Justin Pugh, has not provided much support.
Red Zone Issues
The truth is that the Giants allowed the Eagles to hang around by settling for five field goals, instead of touchdowns, and a better team may have been able to steal that game. Beginning in the preseason, New York has been unable to thrive in the red zone. Penalties have hurt the G-men, but there is no formula for success at the goal line either. The fade to Hakeem Nicks has not worked, and tight end Brandon Myers has not been able to get in sync with Manning yet. Rueben Randle is not yet a consistent route runner, and the running game has been spotty around the goal line. Perhaps Andre Brown will help, but the best indicator of future performance is past performance, and the Giants have not performed in the red zone.
Giants general manager Jerry Reese did not do his best work this off-season. The offensive line was aging and the selection of Justin Pugh was only a band-aid. David Baas and Chris Snee went down with season ending injuries, and the depth was immediately tested, especially with David Diehl injured in pre-season. Will Beatty has not justified the big contract he signed in the off-season, and Kevin Boothe has been spotty.
After Pugh, the Giants selected two defensive linemen and a quarterback with the next three picks, so Reese left the linebacking position woefully thin. After Dan Connor went down with a neck injury in Week 1, and Mark Herzlich replaced Connor, this area was exposed. Outside linebacker Keith Rivers has only 17 tackles on the entire season. The Jon Beason trade was a necessity, but may have been too little too late.
The gamble of trusting David Wilson and Andre Brown with the starting running back position backfired on the Giants. Wilson has shown himself to be a work in progress, and Andre Brown has been injury prone throughout his career. Bringing in Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis have helped, but the help was needed much earlier.
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Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on aExaminer.com.