Before we go any further, let’s not mistake these Giants as being remotely close to the great teams in franchise history, OK?
They’re certainly nowhere near the level of the Super Bowl winners of 1986, 1990, 2007 and 2011. At 3-7, they’re light years away from even thinking in those terms.
But in this wacky 2020 season for the NFC East, having three wins going into Week 12 is enough to dream about a division championship. With the Giants, Washington, Philadelphia and Dallas all having won that many times, all that matters over the next six weeks is this: There’s still a chance.
"It’s a unique opportunity for us," tight end Evan Engram said Monday as the Giants returned from their bye week. "There’s a lot of meaningful football for us, and we’re heading into it with the right mindset."
Engram spent his final day off watching the NFL RedZone channel and spending extra attention on games involving the Cowboys, Eagles and Washington. By the end of the day, after Dallas upset the Vikings, Philly lost to Cleveland and Washington beat the Bengals, the Eagles (3-6-1) had a half-game lead over the division’s three 3-7 teams.
While the Giants won’t look beyond Sunday’s game in Cincinnati against a Bengals team that will be without injured quarterback Joe Burrow, they know that at least for the foreseeable future, their labor won’t be in vain.
Which is a refreshing change for Engram, who didn’t come close to a playoff berth in his three previous seasons with the Giants. That goes for most of the Giants’ young roster, although former Patriot Logan Ryan has two Super Bowl rings and a handful of other teammates have at least been in the tournament.
"When it’s meaningful football and the playoffs are involved," Engram said, "everybody’s sense of urgency goes up. For me, it’s different being here the last three years in the situations we’ve been in, and I know it’s different for a lot of the young guys that are here coming into the league and getting an opportunity to play meaningful football."
Make no mistake: Getting to January won’t be easy. After a game they should win against Cincinnati (2-7-1), it’s at Seattle (7-3), versus Arizona (6-4), versus Cleveland (7-3) and at Baltimore (6-4) before the regular-season finale at home against Dallas, a potential "winner takes the division" game.
First things first, though.
"It’s still kind of far down the line," defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. "It’s hard to look that far ahead. If we do something like that, we might mess around and overlook a team. We really have to focus week by week, and right now, we have the Bengals and we’re looking to go 1-0 after this bye week. Try not to look too far ahead [after] that.’’
Coach Joe Judge refuses to engage in any what-if talk and has pooh-poohed the idea of looking ahead to the playoffs. He insists he doesn’t care about the record; all he’s concerned with is getting better. In the next practice. In the next game.
But that won’t — and shouldn’t — stop Giants fans from dreaming.
"I haven’t been to the playoffs yet," Williams said. "I got close one year when I went 10-6 with the Jets my rookie year. Since then, I haven’t been close to getting to the playoffs."
Now it’s showtime.
"People say the ‘realest’ football is playing around these months, Thanksgiving onward," he said. "This is definitely the time you have to play some of your best football. We just came off a bye week, so people should be feeling fresh and ready to attack the rest of the season."
And if they attack it the right way and build on their two-game winning streak, they will create all they need at this point: a chance.
In this unconventional season, it’s all you can ask.