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Rebuilding Giants actually are contenders in weak NFC East

Pat Shurmur of the Giants looks on during

Pat Shurmur of the Giants looks on during the third quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 6. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Giants have plenty of holes on their roster. They have a very young core of players who are still learning to function at the NFL level. They make costly mistakes at inopportune times, some of which have resulted in losses this season. They carry too much dead money on the salary cap to allow them to make adjustments when injuries hit, so they are saddled with having to hope that unproven commodities pan out. They seem to be engineered more for the future than the present.

Put bluntly, they are not a great team in 2019.

But they have one thing going for them that they did not really expect to happen this season, one element that has come as a pleasant surprise.

They are not in a great division, either.

That means they have a chance.

It will be a better one if they can win on Sunday against the Cardinals. That will allow them to leave MetLife Stadium with a 3-4 record, then go home to watch the Cowboys play the Eagles on Sunday night. Those two teams, who many believed would be running away with the NFC East by this point, each stumble into Week 7 at 3-3. That means a victorious Giants squad on Sunday will wake up on Monday morning tied for second place, a game out of first place, with nine games remaining.

And then the race will be on.

Not that the Giants want to even think about it.

“This league is pretty crazy, a lot of changes the last couple of weeks, but we’ve got to focus on Arizona,’’ tight end Evan Engram said. “That’s the goal to take us to where we want to go, focusing on each week one week at a time, locking in for that opponent.’’

It’s a good perspective because it won’t matter how bad the rest of the division is if the Giants wind up being worse.

“You control all of that by winning games,” coach Pat Shurmur said of the standings. “That’s our focus.”

It is why safety Jabrill Peppers said that watching the Eagles lose to the Vikings and the Cowboys fall to the Jets last Sunday (while the Giants had the weekend off after their loss to the Patriots on Thursday) was “really none of my concern.”

“We’re 2-4,” Peppers said. “We don’t really care what everybody else is doing.”

It’s about what the Giants are doing. And this week, it’s about who they are doing it with. They’ll have as close to their full assortment of offensive playmakers on the field against the Cardinals as they’ve had all season, with Saquon Barkley, Golden Tate and Engram all on the field together for the first time.

“Just more options,” Tate said. “We can spray the ball everywhere, which makes it tough to cover us. The more options we have, the better off we are, the better team we are. I know we are all excited.”

Defensively, the Giants felt like last Thursday’s loss to the Patriots was a step in the right direction. The Giants allowed 35 points, but 14 of those came from the Patriots’ defense and special teams. Peppers said there has “definitely” been growth despite the two straight losses.

“I don’t really like talking about that stuff too much,” Peppers said. “But from Week One to where we are now, I think we are miles ahead.”

All of which could make them dangerous players in the NFC East, the only division in the NFL that enters this weekend without a team above .500.

“That’s what they say,” Shurmur shrugged when asked about the Giants being in contention.

A win against the Cardinals will definitely increase that chatter.

New York Sports