Thanksgiving is Pat Shurmur’s favorite.
“It’s a meal, there’s no gifts, it’s family,” he said. “I’m fond of this holiday.”
There’s also football, which can’t trace its roots to the Pilgrims but has become just as much a part of the tradition as any other element.
Shurmur will condense the practice schedule on Thursday so the players and coaches will be able to spend a good portion of the day with their friends and loved ones. That also will give them an opportunity to be in front of a television when the top teams in the NFC East face off in late afternoon, at which time they may have to think or say something that could make them gag on their sweet potatoes.
That’s right. The best-case scenario for the Giants on Thursday is to have the hated Cowboys beat the hated Redskins.
It’s an ugly thought, hoping that Ezekiel Elliott gobbles up yardage while the Giants are gobbling up dinner. Pulling for Dak Prescott to have a big game and Jason Garrett to be clapping up a storm. Seeing the toothy, Grinchy, Jerry Jones grin that undoubtedly will be flashed on the screen between each snap late in the game if the Cowboys have a significant lead. Giants linebacker B.J. Goodson called it a “lose-lose” situation having to pull for either division rival.
But the Giants stunk in the first half of the year, so this is what they get. Consider it their penance.
“I need that ball to roll any way it can for us,” Giants linebacker Kareem Martin said.
If it makes it easier to digest, don’t consider the Giants to be rooting for a particular team. Think of them as rooting for the team in first place in the division to have the fewest possible wins at the end of the day. If the Redskins and their depleted roster can pull out a victory, their win total would improve to seven. That dramatically slims the already svelte wiggle room the Giants have to make a run at the title. If the Cowboys win, then they and Washington are in a virtual first-place tie with six wins each. It would be the fewest wins of any division leader in the NFL.
“I would rather them have a draw,” defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson said.
No! That won’t help much, either. In fact, it would be the worst scenario for the Giants. Since ties count as half-wins in the NFL’s standings, it would give Washington 6 1/2 victories and Dallas 5 1/2. Sure, the Giants would get the satisfaction of seeing neither team celebrate, but they’d both be pulling away from them with time in the season running out.
Not everyone is philosophically opposed to showing some Cowboy love.
“If it had a direct impact, I’ve rooted for divisional teams if I thought it would help us out one way or another,” Eli Manning said (though he insisted he’ll be an impartial observer on Thursday).
And it may help the Giants to know that, down the Turnpike, the Eagles probably will be rooting for the Cowboys as well. Eagles coach Doug Pederson chuckled when asked about that “sickening” thought. But his team has just four wins.
“Well,” he said, “this time of year you have to do what you have to do.”
Of course, none of it will matter much to the Giants if they don’t beat the Eagles on Sunday. That’s their primary focus. If the Cowboys and Giants win, then the Giants would have four victories and be just two games behind the Cowboys and Redskins. With five games to play. Two of them head-to-heads against those teams. Then all of a sudden the picture gets a little rosier and the Giants will find themselves doing something that a few weeks ago seemed ludicrous: playing meaningful games in December.
And that would be something to be thankful for.