In any other year, a 2-7 team with a first-year coach whose only two wins have come against the same awful opponent would be looked upon for what it is: a rebuilding situation with a potentially promising long-range outcome.
But this is the NFC East in 2020, and these 2-7 Giants have a chance at more than just hope for the future.
They have a chance for … dare we say … a playoff berth.
Yes, it sounds ridiculous. But what hasn’t sounded ridiculous in a year that has completely gone off the rails?
The Giants as potential NFC East champions?
Amazingly, it’s still possible.
But only if they can prove on Sunday that they’re capable of beating a 3-4-1 Eagles team that has at least shown signs of becoming the best team in a bad division.
This may not be a must game in the traditional sense. But if the Giants want to make this season about more than simply laying the foundation for the future, then it is imperative they put away a team they should have beaten last month. And not choke away an 11-point lead as they did in a 22-21 loss at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 7.
Other than the epic meltdown in the fourth quarter, when Carson Wentz frantically brought the Eagles back in the final minutes, that game will be remembered mostly for Daniel Jones’ breathtaking run that went for 80 yards but ended with him stumbling to the ground 8 yards short of the end zone. But at least the Giants scored a touchdown after that Football Follies moment. The late-game collapse was what inflicted the real damage in that one.
But now comes a chance at redemption. And a chance at Joe Judge’s team taking the improvements we’ve seen at several turns this year and turning them into a sustained run of success that could – repeat, could – result in a divisional title run. Even if they win the title with a losing record in this nutty season.
"Throw the record away, it’s irrelevant," Judge said after the Giants dispatched Washington on Sunday. "It’s going to be a big game for us no matter who we play, especially with Philadelphia coming in. The record is completely irrelevant in this game. We’re just trying to go 1-0 every week."
Judge said being five games below .500 nine weeks into the season "is the last thing we should care about. We have to worry about day by day and week by week making constant improvement as a team and moving in the right direction."
Bottom line: "The fact that we’re playing Philadelphia is a division game, it’s obviously a big game for us."
And make no mistake. Even though the teams are a combined 5-11-1, it still carries meaning for both teams. With Washington just not good enough to compete week-to-week and Dallas being done without Dak Prescott, this will either be Philly’s division to win, or if the Giants win on Sunday, it can be a two-team race.
Not bad for a Giants team that started off 0-5.
"We’re certainly aware of the situation in the division and where the record stands," Jones said. "I think there’s opportunities for us."
But the opportunity will only present itself if the Giants can take the defensive improvement they’ve shown through much of the season and, more importantly, if Jones can do more than just flash his potential in spots. He needs to step up in a way that convinces his team and a legion of skeptical fans that he can indeed be the answer at quarterback.
Judge continues to stand by Jones and defends him despite the obvious deficiencies he’s shown through his first two seasons.
"I think he’s doing a lot of things aggressively," Judge said. "I see a lot of aggressiveness in Daniel, and I like the way he plays. The team rallies around him right there. When it comes time to take our shots, we’ll take our shots offensively … I see him improving on a weekly basis, and I love having that guy in the huddle right now being our signal-caller. I know the team around him does as well."
There’s no better time for Jones to further ingratiate himself with his team. Even after all the losing, there’s still a chance.
But only if he beats the Eagles for the first time.
If not, then this race, as uninspiring as it might be, is just about over.