BUFFALO - This seems as good a time as any to break out the trusty Bill Parcells quote to describe what the Giants' season has been like.
After the sky-is-falling narrative off back-to-back losses to start the season, followed by the maybe-they-can-make-a-championship-run reaction to an impressive win over Washington in Week 3, the line Parcells used early and often during his days as the Giants' coach helps explain it all.
"In New York," Parcells said, "it's euphoria or disaster."
This is just the latest proof of the theory Parcells put forth more than 30 years ago. At a time when sweeping judgments are demanded on a weekly basis, the saying is particularly appropriate. Yet it's impossible to know which way this thing will go and whether the Giants will be looking for a new coach by the end of the season or hoisting Tom Coughlin on their shoulders after his third Super Bowl victory.
Every NFL season is filled with twists and turns -- some dramatic, others not -- and that's the inherent beauty of this sport and this league. A season consisting of only 16 games might not seem to make room for so many changing story lines, but every team in every year experiences them.
In this area, where emotions and impatience run hotter than just about anywhere else, it's particularly pronounced, and it's always a challenge to filter out the noise. Parcells had a unique understanding of that dynamic because he lived it as a child growing up in northern New Jersey. He knew the market as a fan, then later as a coach, and he reminded himself -- and the rest of us -- that you survive this frantic line of thinking by understanding and accepting it.
Parcells always took the longer view of things, even if he himself occasionally succumbed to the sometimes exhausting intensity of football's inevitable ups and downs. He'd get himself through those times by uttering another simple yet helpful phrase he used throughout his career as a how-to tip for surviving the season:
"It's a marathon, not a sprint."
So as tempting as it might be to assign an either-or status to this year's Giants team, better to let the season unfold and try a more level-headed approach. It's not easy when the temptation is to do just the opposite, even during the course of a game, let alone a season. Criticism is fair when warranted, as is praise, but perspective also is encouraged.
And that especially applies to this Giants team in particular. There are fascinating possibilities here -- both good and bad -- as we've already seen in the first three games.
Look at it one way and the Giants have been better than expected in many ways. They've had the lead in the fourth quarter in all three games. Eli Manning's issues in the second half of losses to the Cowboys and Falcons were obvious causes for concern, but he did come back in impressive fashion against Washington to keep the Giants from falling to 0-3.
Manning correctly points out that compared to last season, this year has been much smoother in terms of offensive efficiency. The Giants were miserable during an 0-2 start in 2014, outscored by a combined 60-28 by the Lions and Cardinals. They did rebound with three straight wins, but then the bottom fell out of the season with seven consecutive losses.
The good news this year -- or at least the not-so-bad news -- is that the NFC East looks to be one of the most flawed divisions in the league. And it could stay that way for the foreseeable future, which means that no matter how inconsistent the Giants may be in the coming weeks, the likelihood is that no team seems capable of running away with the division.
The Cowboys (2-1) will be without quarterback Tony Romo (fractured clavicle) and wide receiver Dez Bryant (fractured foot) for the next six weeks, if not longer. The Eagles (1-2) have sputtered with Chip Kelly's roster remake. Washington coach Jay Gruden's decision to go with Kirk Cousins means the interception problems he had against the Giants likely will continue. Washington (1-2) doesn't seem ready to string together a bunch of wins.
So where do the Giants fit in? They face Rex Ryan's Bills on Sunday, and at this point, they're right in the mix and capable of staying there for the next several weeks. Their schedule is not an impossible one. The defending Super Bowl champion Patriots appear next-to-impossible to beat at this point, but the Giants figure to be competitive with everyone else. And given Coughlin's success against Bill Belichick, beating the Patriots isn't out of the question either.
Then again, the Giants also are capable of playing themselves out of contention if mistakes on offense come back into the equation, and if a defense without a legitimate pass rusher because of Jason Pierre-Paul's fireworks injury eventually succumbs to the league's better offenses.
Almost a month into the season, this will remain a work in progress until the Giants discover who they are and what they'll become.
In the meantime, settle in and remember the words often used by the Hall of Fame coach who experienced both sides of the adage he lived by.
Euphoria or disaster. There should be plenty of both in the weeks ahead.