Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants runs the...

Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants runs the ball during the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Credit: Jim McIsaac

And so begins another depressing December football Sunday for a Giants team that has had too many of them in the past decade.

Giants-Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field could have held great significance under different circumstances, and with so much optimism swirling about the team during the summer, a day-after-Christmas game against their decades-old NFC East rival looked enticing.

Now? The Giants are playing out the string in one of their most disappointing seasons ever, with three games remaining for a 4-10 team going nowhere. The Eagles are 7-7 and clinging to playoff hopes under first-year coach Nick Sirianni.

Giants-Eagles has been a part of so many meaningful times — both good and bad — with stirring matchups featuring Bill Parcells against Buddy Ryan and Tom Coughlin against Andy Reid.

There were overtime victories in 2005 and 2006 as part of the crescendo toward a Super Bowl victory in 2007.

And a crushing 38-31 loss on DeSean Jackson’s walk-off 65-yard punt return for a touchdown on Dec. 19, 2010, that capped the Eagles’ comeback from a 31-10 deficit midway through the fourth quarter. It prompted Coughlin to scream at punter Matt Dodge on the field immediately after the TD, as Dodge had sent a line drive to the dangerous Jackson instead of punting the ball out of bounds. It dashed the Giants’ hopes that year — and gave them the "finish" mantra that carried them to another Super Bowl victory a year later.

And a crushing 14-10 loss to the Eagles on Brian Westbrook’s 84-yard punt return with 1:16 remaining on Oct. 19, 2003.

And there also was this transformative moment that led to the eventual restoration of the franchise’s dignity: On Nov. 19, 1978, with the Giants needing only a kneel-down by quarterback Joe Pisarcik to clinch a victory over the Eagles at Giants Stadium, Pisarcik went along with the coaching staff’s instructions and handed off to Larry Csonka — only to have the ball carom off the running back’s hip and fall to the turf before being scooped up by Herman Edwards and returned 26 yards for a touchdown with 20 seconds remaining. Instead of a 17-12 victory, the Giants were beaten, 19-17, in a game known simply as "The Fumble" — and also ‘’Miracle at the Meadowlands.’’

When the Giants returned to the stadium for their next home game, a plane flew overhead carrying a banner that read: "15 Years of Lousy Football. We’ve Had Enough."

The only thing missing now is the plane.

Out of that late-season travesty against the Eagles came the eventual decision to hire George Young as general manager. Thus began an era of unprecedented success that resulted in four Super Bowl championships and a well-earned reputation as one of the league’s most successful franchises.

The situation today is remarkably similar to the one the Giants faced more than four decades ago, and there soon will be a new general manager to replace Dave Gettleman and usher in what Giants fans can only hope is a more prosperous time than the one they’ve endured the last 10 years. They’ve missed the playoffs nine times and are up to five straight seasons with double-digit losses.

With another game against the Eagles on tap, it’s a fitting reminder of just how far they’ve fallen.

COVID concerns continue

With COVID-19 cases surging around the country, it has been an extraordinarily challenging time for everyone. The NFL is no exception.

"It’s been chaos," said Giants defensive back Logan Ryan, the team’s NFL Players Association representative. "It’s crazy times as a father, as a person in society and as a football player. You don’t know day-in and day-out. There’s fear, there’s stress. We’re kind of just playing a game through what we’re dealing with."

Ryan speaks for many players when he discusses the conflicting emotions about playing through a pandemic.

"It’s almost like you’re choosing between health and safety or getting paid," he said. "Those are tough, tough choices for anyone to make. Do I want to sacrifice my health to get paid? It may be the health of others, it may be the health of family members and older people and my grandparents, so it’s a serious conversation."

More than 100 players have tested positive the last two weeks, as well as four head coaches: Sean Payton of the Saints, Kevin Stefanski of the Browns, Robert Saleh of the Jets and Nick Sirianni of the Eagles. The league recently eliminated weekly testing for fully vaccinated players who are asymptomatic, although unvaccinated players continue to be tested daily.

"I think all of our concern about [asymptomatic spread] has been going down based on what we’ve been seeing throughout the past several months," NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills told NFL Network this week. "We’ve got our hands full with symptomatic people. Can I tell you that there has never been a case when someone without symptoms passed it on to someone else? No, of course I can’t say that. But what I can say to you is that I think it’s a very, very tiny fraction of the overall problem, if it exists at all . . . This is being driven by people with symptoms and the exposures during that symptomatic period."

Kansas City hits its stride

Two-time AFC champion Kansas City came into the season feeling good about going to a third straight Super Bowl, and now that the team has weathered a midseason wobble in which it lost two of three games in October, things are looking up for Patrick Mahomes & Co.

Since being walloped 27-3 by the Titans in Tennessee on Oct. 24, Kansas City has won seven straight games. The streak has put KC in control of the top seeds in the AFC playoffs, and if they win out over the Steelers, Bengals and Broncos, the AFC’s road to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles will go through Kansas City.

That winning streak began against the Giants in a 20-17 victory at home. It was a narrow escape for Mahomes, whose fourth-quarter interception that might have turned the game around was called back because of an offsides penalty.

Mahomes had been having difficulty dealing with teams intent on playing a conservative Cover-2 scheme in which two safeties play back to prevent deep passes. He has appeared to solve that challenge and has thrown 11 touchdown passes and three interceptions in his last six games.

Those are not huge numbers by Mahomes’ standards, but he, Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy look as if they’ve found some answers, particularly in a 34-28 overtime win over the Chargers in a Week 15 game in Los Angeles.

Three more wins, and Mahomes’ appointment for a third straight Super Bowl appearance remains on schedule.

Will Bengals’ resurgence continue?

It has been a mostly terrific season for the Bengals, who are 8-6 in Joe Burrow’s second season and have a chance to win the AFC North title for the first time since 2015. What they do on Sunday against the Ravens will have a lot to do with whether that happens.

The Bengals already thrashed Baltimore, 41-17, on the road, and a win in the rematch at Paul Brown Stadium will put them in excellent position to win the division. Baltimore could be without Lamar Jackson, who missed last week’s game against the Packers with an ankle injury. Undrafted Tyler Huntley had a terrific performance in a 31-30 loss to Green Bay, but he won’t play either after being added to the COVID list Saturday. Josh Johnson, signed off the Jets’ practice squad, will get the start.

The Bengals have quietly built an impressive offense featuring a trio of skill position stars reminiscent of the Cowboys’ "Triplets" — quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin, the heart of their Super Bowl-winning teams in the 1990s. No one is ready to anoint Burrow, running back Joe Mixon and rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase as having the Hall of Fame stature of the Cowboys’ stars, but they are at the heart of the Bengals’ recent success.

Burrow has a 95-plus rating in three of four divisional games this season, leads the AFC with a 100.7 rating and can become the third Bengals quarterback with 4,000 passing yards in a single season.

Mixon has a rushing touchdown in seven of his last eight home games. He is second in the NFL with 1,094 rushing yards and third with a career-high 12 touchdowns.

Chase, who has 1,038 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, is the fifth rookie receiver in the Super Bowl era with at least 1,000 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns.

Judon thrives under Belichick

He may not have been one of the most celebrated free-agent acquisitions in the offseason, but defensive end Matt Judon has proved to be one of the best.

The former Ravens linebacker has been absolutely brilliant in Bill Belichick’s scheme and leads the team with 12 ½ sacks. With 54 tackles, he’s on pace to set a career high, and he also has 25 quarterback hits heading into Sunday’s critical AFC East game against the Bills at Gillette Stadium.

Judon’s versatility makes him a perfect fit for Belichick, who uses the 29-year-old defender in a variety of ways.

"Matt’s a good player, he does a lot of things well," Belichick said. "He’s added a lot to our team and our defense. I think he’s shown a good ability to play the run, hold up on the line of scrimmage, rush the passer, pursue, effort, does a good job for us on punt returns. All the situations he’s on the field for, it’s good to have him out there. He’s a good player.’’

Extra points

Entering Week 16, 27 teams still are in playoff contention with three weeks to play. That’s tied for the most at this point in NFL history (1982, 1995, 2004) . . . From the never-say-never department: Coming into this weekend, five teams were in first place that didn’t win a division title last year: Dallas, Arizona, Cincinnati, New England and Tampa Bay. The Bengals, Patriots, Cardinals and Cowboys didn’t even make the playoffs last year . . . Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert has thrown at least two touchdown passes in five straight games heading into Sunday’s game against the Texans in Houston. The second-year star is third in the NFL with 4,058 passing yards and is the second player in league history with 4,000-plus passing yards in his first two seasons. Jameis Winston had 4,000-plus in his first two years with the Buccaneers . . . Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has 365 career touchdown passes and needs two more to surpass Eli Manning for ninth-most in NFL history . . . Tom Brady is in rare bounce-back mode after being shut out at home by the Saints last week, but he will go against a Panthers team that allowed 341 yards and four touchdowns, including a rushing TD. Brady needs four touchdown passes to join Aaron Rodgers as the only quarterbacks with three seasons of at least 40 touchdown passes . . . Rams receiver Cooper Kupp, who leads the NFL in catches (122), receiving yards (1,625) and receiving touchdowns (14), can become the first player in NFL history to have 90-plus receiving yards in 14 games within a single season . . . Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs, who leads the NFL with 10 interceptions, is three picks away from tying all-time leader Lester Hayes for the most in the Super Bowl era. The Cowboys’ Everson Walls in 1981 was the last NFL player with 11 interceptions in a single season . . . The Vikings came into Week 16 leading the NFL with 44 sacks, and with at least two sacks against the Rams on Sunday, Minnesota would become the first team to have multiple sacks in its first 15 games.

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