By next Thursday, we’ll know who these Giants are.
There are only a handful of ways this can play out for them over the coming week as they prepare for a two-games-in-five-days stretch that likely will define their season. They could be flying high at 3-3, thumbing their noses at the doomsayers and in strong position to make a second-half run at a playoff spot. They could be 2-4, barely hanging on to contention and fighting to remain relevant for the remainder of the month, never mind the season. Or they could be 1-5 and finished.
That’s how urgent these next two games are, beginning with Sunday’s visit to Carolina followed by a short week to prepare to host the Super Bowl champion Eagles on Oct. 11.
An NFL schedule is 16 games long. An NFL season, from the start of training camp to the Super Bowl, is 28 weeks. For the Giants, their destiny is compressed to this short span of days. And, while their focus is entirely on the Panthers game, as it should be, there is also the knowledge in the back of their heads that if they want to be the team they hope to be, the winning needs to start now.
They are not holding anything or anyone back at this point.
“There are no tomorrows,” coach Pat Shurmur said on Wednesday.
Not now there aren’t. But if they can win the next two games, they can open up a lot of tomorrows.
Starting with one win in the first four games was not the way any of the Giants wanted this season to go. Yet here they are.
Running back Saquon Barkley said that he wants to disprove one of the most famous axioms by one of the franchise’s most successful coaches.
“We are better than 1-3, but [running backs coach Craig Johnson] put up a quote from Bill Parcells saying ‘You are what your record says you are,’" Barkley said. “We’ve got to prove that wrong. We’ve got to come out and start to find a way to win games . . . It’s a long-grind season, but you can’t have that mindset the whole time and we got to get things rolling.”
They’re certainly saying all the right things. Eli Manning, in his weekly radio appearance on WFAN this week, said he believes the Giants are moving in the right direction. Safety Michael Thomas said on Wednesday: “We’re trying to stay away from the state-of-the-team comments, but I like where we are at.”
Linebacker Connor Barwin said he, too, sees the foundations of success.
“I can see us kind of coming together,” he said. “Hopefully this adversity that we’re having now is making us stronger for down the road this season.”
That often happens, where rough patches steel teams. Every year in late January, it seems, playoff teams are asked about turning points, when things clicked, and dry spells they overcame to help shape them into championship-caliber squads. But there is a depth at which the hole becomes too deep to climb out from, a fine line between adversity and despair.
For the Giants, that line appears to be right in front of them.
They see it, even if they aren’t going to recognize it.
“We’re just trying to get a win this week,” Thomas said. “And after that we’ll deal with whatever is next.”