Earlier this month Tom Coughlin once called it a four-game season with four must-win contests. Little did he know that the Giants' playoff hopes would come down to four games on the final day of the season.
Because the Giants have fizzled over the last two weeks, losing by a combined 67-14 to the Falcons and Ravens, they are pinched into a scenario where they have to beat the Eagles on Sunday and have three other results go their way. The Lions must beat the Bears, the Packers must beat the Vikings, and the Redskins must beat or tie the Cowboys.
"Stranger things have happened," Coughlin said on Monday.
Perhaps none stranger, though, than the way the Giants have collapsed. Two weeks ago they beat the Saints, 52-27, and seemed to be perched for a legitimate run at another Super Bowl title. Now they'll be lucky - extremely lucky - to make the postseason.
"It's perplexing, it's disappointing, it's frustrating," Coughlin said. "And understand that it is to the players as well. We'd all like to have multiple answers for these things, or singular, something that would turn it in the other direction. Let's face it, two weeks ago we're holding out that you can turn this thing right back again. We're hoping that a game at home is going to allow us to do that."
Coughlin said while he is aware of the mechanisms that have to take place for them to advance, he is focused solely on the Giants' game against the Eagles. So, too, are the players. Eli Manning said he met with the offensive team on Monday and spoke to them about what is at stake.
"I guarantee you the worst feeling you can have is all those teams lose and we don't handle our business and we lose," Manning said. "You never know what can happen. It's a crazy game, it's a crazy sport and obviously the scenario is very possible. It's not like a bunch of huge upsets have to happen. These are three divisional games being played and you never know what might occur."
In fact, three of the teams the Giants need to win - including themselves - are favorites. The only underdog is Detroit, who is +3 against the Bears.
The Giants' season could end by the time their game is over on Sunday, around 4 p.m., with either a loss to the Eagles or a win by the Bears. It could end around 8 when the Vikings-Packers game wraps up. Or it could end late Sunday night, close to midnight, as the Redskins and Cowboys fight for the NFC East title.
Or, it could continue. Somewhat miraculously.
The first step is to beat the Eagles, a mountain of a task considering how poorly the team has played in its last two games. And Eagles rookie quarterback Nick Foles is out with a broken right hand, meaning Michael Vick is likely to take his place on Sunday.
"I think we'll be focused and we'll be ready to play," Manning said. "I'm pretty confident, just talking to the offensive guys today, that we're going to get after it. We're going to compete I told them 'Hey, whether it's our last game or everything falls the way we need it to and we make the playoffs, even if it is our last game, let's end it on a high note. Let's end it playing better football. At least you have something to be proud of. Something that you take into the offseason not feeling bad that you haven't played well three games in a row."