The Browns will literally be the worst team the Giants have faced in their nearly 92 full seasons of existence.
Never before has Big Blue squared off against a squad that has gone so long into a season without a win. The Browns, who will host the Giants on Sunday, are a pitiful 0-11. Their losing streak dates to last year and stands at 14. They have won just once in their last 22 games.
So how do you prepare for such ineptitude?
“They’re going to be hungry for a win,” Eli Manning said Tuesday. “They’re going to want it. You expect they’re going to come out and play hard and do everything they can to get a win. We have to expect that.”
Manning knows. He went through the 2013 season that started with six losses. He remembers what that was like, probably still has scars on his psyche from it. The Browns have gone nearly twice as long without winning this year.
“You have to treat it like every other week and nothing should change based on a team’s record,” Manning said. “They have some good players, they have guys who can take over the game. We can’t let them do that.”
That would be embarrassing. The Giants, 7-3 and winners of five in a row, are just getting back to the point where people are taking them and their playoff hopes seriously. To lose to the Browns would wipe all of that away in one afternoon.
It would count as one loss, a non-conference loss at that, but it would mean so much more.
No one wants to be the first team to lose to the winless team.
“No matter what, these guys are paid to play in this league,” Victor Cruz said in his weekly WFAN interview. “We don’t want to be the team that let one slip by.”
The Giants, unfortunately for them, have some experience with that.
Up until this point, the worst team the Giants ever faced, record-wise, was the 1960 Cowboys. They were 0-10 in their inaugural season when they came to New York for the first time on Dec. 4. The Giants were up 14-0 early and led 31-24 late in the fourth, but the game ended in a 31-31 tie. It wound up being the only non-loss for the Cowboys that year, as they finished 0-11-1. The Giants went 6-4-2.
Since the 1970 merger the Giants have faced teams with records of 0-4 or worse 12 times. They have lost three of them.
While the Giants don’t want to fall into that trap against the Browns, there are some who, in a way, are rooting for them to win at least one game this year . . . eventually.
“As you can imagine, it’s not an easy thing,” said Giants backup quarterback Ryan Nassib, whose younger brother Carl is a rookie defensive end for the Browns. “I think everyone around the league hopes they get that win just because the NFL is a brotherhood in and of itself. We hope they get it. Just not this week.”
This week, the Giants want to be ruthless. They want to add to Cleveland’s misery.
“If you don’t prepare,” Manning said, “you’re going to lose.”
Although Manning is hoping the Giants are ignoring the Browns’ record while going through their preparations, the terror of losing to the lowliest team they’ve ever played should be enough to catch the players’ attention if they do happen to glance at that 0-11 number.
“If anything,” Manning said, “that should help your preparation. And then I’m all for it.”