The Giants’ worst fears about losing Jason Pierre-Paul were realized Wednesday when he underwent surgery for a sports hernia and was lost for at least the remainder of the regular season. But Pierre-Paul’s absence hasn’t dimmed the outlook for the rest of the team, and star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. believes with all his heart that there is still a chance of getting to Houston on Feb. 5 for Super Bowl LI.
This despite the fact the Giants must run the gantlet of playoff contenders over the final month of the season, starting Sunday against the 11-1 Cowboys at MetLife Stadium.
“This is a playoff game for us, in my mind, and so are the rest of them,” Beckham said after Wednesday’s practice. “You’ve got to win eight games, and that’s how I look at it. You’ve got to win eight games straight.”
Beckham’s math translates to four straight wins to end the regular season, and then four more in the postseason, assuming they play in the wild-card round. Four plus four gets the Giants a fifth Vince Lombardi Trophy. And if the Giants do make it to the playoffs, then there’s still a chance Pierre-Paul can make it back in time.
“It’s definitely very tough, especially coming from a guy that has been through hell and back,” Beckham said of Pierre-Paul, who lost parts of three fingers in a July 4, 2015, fireworks accident. “It’s tough to lose a guy like that. We’ll win enough games for him to get back in time and for him to come back and make an impact. We all wish he was here.”
Beckham was one of several Giants expressing confidence in the team’s ability to withstand Pierre-Paul’s loss, but this stiff upper lip business rings hollow for a team coming off a dispiriting 24-14 loss to a quality Steelers team.
So if Beckham and anyone else in the locker room thinks the Giants are still in good shape now that Pierre-Paul won’t be around for the stretch run, they’re in denial. At the time of the injury, he was showing flashes of the form that once made him one of the most dominant pass rushers in the game. Even if he wasn’t getting a sack, he was creating consistent pressure and allowing others on the line, including end Olivier Vernon, to get to the passer.
The Giants don’t have a suitable replacement for him, with Romeo Okwara, Owa Odighizuwa and Kerry Wynn among the candidates. But all three don’t add up to Pierre-Paul, and there will be some serious deficiencies on the right side, especially against a Cowboys team that boasts the NFL’s best offensive line.
The best way the Giants can overcome Pierre-Paul’s loss may be through the offense.
“It’s a lot harder to beat us if there were 40 points on the board, or 35 points on the board,” Beckham said. “We need to score more points, we’ve got to be more productive and just execute better.”
But there are zero indications that the Giants are capable of executing better. The running game is virtually nonexistent, so play-action passing is not effective, and Eli Manning has struggled to find the right balance with his receivers.
The Giants are hoping a return to MetLife Stadium, where they are 5-1, will be a boost. Then again, only two of those wins came against teams that currently have a winning record, so beating the Cowboys at home will be a huge task. Beating them without Pierre-Paul makes it all the more implausible.