When the Giants return to work Monday morning, Tom Coughlin will have a long list for them. During the self-scouting process that took place during the past week, he and the coaches dissected every facet of the team and ranked them from the things that they do well to the areas that need the most immediate attention.
Coughlin does this every year during the bye. He calls it the "worst to best" list.
This year, though, "worst to best" could also be used as a title for the plan going forward. That's what the Giants hope to do, go from one of the worst teams in the NFL with a dismal 2-6 record, in last place in the NFC East and among the lowest ranked teams in the league in virtually every statistical category of significance, all the way to having home confetti flying around at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2.
Normally at this point in the season, the Giants are bracing to withstand a second-half swoon. They've been 5-3 or better in each of Coughlin's previous nine seasons with the team.
"This is the complete opposite of where we've been normally at the break," Justin Tuck said.
The thinking is clear. The struggles that normally occur in December happened in September. Perhaps the wins that normally mark the first two months of the season will transfer to the back end.
"It's a little bit different this time, so hopefully we can flip it and play good down the stretch and play as a unit and play some good football," Jerry Reese said last week.
They'd better, because the rest of the Giants' season will be performed on a high wire without any netting below. One missed step, one slip, and it's a long fall. With the Cowboys, Eagles (4-5) and Redskins (3-5) all winning on Sunday, the division took a step forward that the Giants were unable to match. They return this week two and a half games and two full teams behind the first-place Cowboys (5-4).
"We just have to continue to do what we've done in the last two weeks," Tuck said. "Make sure we come back with that same hunger, that same mentality and earn the right to win. It's really that simple. We can't allow ourselves to think about past or future. All we can think about is what's next."
The Giants entered the bye on a bit of a roll, which caused some concern. Coughlin said the Giants were just starting to "play our way into" contention, and then they had to take a week off.
"Obviously we wish the bye week was maybe Week 10 so we could get a couple more wins," Terrell Thomas said.
"With two wins we got back to back right now, the way we're playing out there, you feel like you don't want to mess up the momentum," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "From that standpoint, you'd like to keep going, keep the games rolling."
But the Giants did need a rest, not only to mend themselves physically but emotionally.
"Being 0-6, like I said several times before, can do a lot of things to you," Antrel Rolle said. "I've had to dig extremely deep, had to be so mentally tough to overcome it because I've never been in that stage in my life.
"It's been a rough eight weeks, extremely rough," Rolle added. "We're just looking to come back and go on this run."