Here’s the thing about Giants Super Bowl runs: They tend to sneak up on folks.
Sure, there are always people who claim they saw the kindling of a championship blaze way back in training camp, but at least the last two — and possibly three of their four Lombardi Trophies — have come from teams that did not spend much time atop the pundit polls or in the power rankings penthouse.
They evolved from seasons in which there were regular-season doubts and difficulties to overcome, in which they slipped into the postseason under the rope rather than through the VIP entrance and were never rationally considered the best team in the NFL until the very moment the confetti exploded on them.
Sometimes not even then.
Teams a lot like this one, maybe?
This already has been a wildly successful season for the Giants. They overhauled their culture and communication in the building, more than doubled their win total from a year ago, ended an unsightly streak of losing records, reached their goal of playing in those “meaningful games” in December and January, and now are in the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season.
They have taken a huge first stride on the long-term journey coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen sold when they were interviewing for their positions at this point a year ago. They are, to use a phrase that has been batted around a bit this past week, playing with “house money.”
This squad already has cemented its place as a turning-point team for the organization. Now they have a real chance to be even more.
“I think we’re definitely not satisfied just to have made the playoffs,” Daniel Jones said. “That’s not how we see it as a group. We were confident in our team dating back to training camp and knew what we were able to accomplish. We’re by no means satisfied. We expect to play well and to win.”
The zaniest part of that boast is how unzany it actually seems. There are not many Goliaths in the NFC for these Giants to slay.
They start with the Vikings, a team they lost to last month on a last-second 61-yard field goal despite lacking their two best players in the secondary (they’ll be back on Sunday).
Win that and then it’s likely the top-seeded Eagles, whom the Giants hung with despite not playing Jones or Saquon Barkley in Week 18, or Dallas, another division rival that would bring familiarity, or Tampa Bay and their old postseason pal, Tom Brady.
And San Francisco, the number two seed in the conference, has a rookie quarterback who was the last player selected in the draft. Wink Martindale can’t wait to start messing with his mind.
They have a real chance to make some noise in these playoffs — oddly enough, a better chance than they did in the regular season.
But that’s all (potentially) in the weeks to come.
Martindale put the postseason path in perspective to the team this week.
“When we were getting ready to play the Super Bowl [with the Ravens in 2013], Ray Lewis was talking to the team and he said: ‘Look, we don’t have to win the Super Bowl, we just have to beat the team we’re playing,’ ” the defensive coordinator said. “We don’t have to win the playoffs, we just have to beat Minnesota. So just keep the main thing the main thing.”
For the Giants, that means relying on the consistency of thought and purpose they have honed for the previous four months . . . and hoping it can last one more.
“I’d say we’re 0-0,” Daboll said. “It’s a new season, so we’ve got to do a good job of preparing and practicing the right way to play our best on Sunday.”
Win or lose, this has been a remarkable season that has established a foundation for future expectations. It has allowed the many Giants players who have never experienced winning in their careers to enjoy the sensation.
(Before this year’s opening victory in Tennessee, Barkley spent his first four seasons without ever having a record of .500, never mind over it.)
It has illustrated to the front office that key components such as the quarterback and running back deserve a chance to return and be part of the franchise’s broader plans.
This season has illuminated something that has been long dormant: a bright Giants future.
That, though, is the last thing the players are thinking about.
“Everything’s going to be different next year,” defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence said. “Don’t wait until next year. Dominate this year.”
Stranger things have happened. The Giants’ trophy case is a testament to that.