ARLINGTON, Texas - After what we've seen from the Giants these last two weeks, when they faced the top two teams in the NFC East after what appeared to be a season-altering three-game winning streak, there is only one conclusion to be drawn: They're just not good enough to deserve consideration right now for either a divisional title or a playoff run.
Based on their shutout loss in Philly followed by an improved yet incomplete performance in Sunday's 31-21 loss in Dallas, this team simply doesn't have what it takes. That doesn't mean things won't change in the coming weeks, because every NFL season is a journey with many twists and turns and unexpected developments. But in the right-here, right-now world the Giants find themselves in after back-to-back divisional losses on the road, they're simply not ready to contend.
They were embarrassed a week ago in one of the worst beatdowns of the Tom Coughlin-Eli Manning era, and they were overpowered by a Dallas team that has been the surprise of the season. The Cowboys' rejuvenated defense held the Giants to 104 rushing yards, a 38 percent third-down efficiency and a 7.5-yard average gain per pass.
Manning did throw three touchdown passes and didn't throw an interception, but tight end Larry Donnell lost two fumbles, including a critical turnover early in the fourth quarter when the Giants were within a touchdown. And the Giants' defense surrendered three TD passes to Tony Romo and gave up 128 yards and a touchdown to the record-breaking DeMarco Murray.
The Giants enter their bye week at 3-4, with all of their wins against mediocre teams and all of their losses to teams with winning records. And with upcoming games against the Colts, Seahawks, 49ers and Cowboys, there is no convincing evidence that there will be an immediate turnaround.
"We have to come together and figure out a way," Coughlin said. "I'm concerned with playing better football. Our execution, our ability to run the football, defensing the run. I hope we come back with great resolve from the bye and look at the opportunities that are in front of us. We play some very good teams, but we try to improve on things we're doing poorly and look forward to the opportunities that are coming ahead of us.''
It will not be easy. In fact, it will be an upset if the Giants do turn things around in a demonstrable way to re-inject themselves into the conversation about teams that will earn the right to play into January. With the Cowboys and Eagles a combined 11-2 and the Giants already three games out of first place seven weeks into the season, time is becoming a factor.
Of course, in a league that typically produces surprise results in any given week, the Giants are capable of righting themselves. But with a re-tooled roster featuring many younger players, and with a growing list of injuries that added Cullen Jenkins (calf) and already includes Victor Cruz (knee, done for the season), Jon Beason (his foot problem flared up again) Rashad Jennings (he hopes to come back in two weeks from a knee injury) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (his right side continues to be a problem), the margin for error grows dangerously thin.
There were a few bright spots against the Cowboys, including another turnover-free game from Manning, who has 11 touchdown passes and one interception in his last five games; rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who had two touchdown catches, and cornerback Prince Amukamara, whose interception set up the Giants' second touchdown. "We're not going to give up. That's not an option,'' Manning said. "No one said it would come real easily. We have to find a way to make adjustments and play at a higher level than we are now.''
We're just not sure if the Giants are capable of playing at a higher level. They'll show us with more certainty after they run the gantlet of elite teams. If they can win two or three of those games and head into the stretch run within striking distance of the divisional title or a wild-card berth, they'll provide evidence that their current malaise is only a temporary one.
If they lose three of four, this almost certainly will go down as a lost season. With all the changes that follow lost seasons.