Just when things are starting to go the Giants' way, they're going to stop.
That's the reality the players are dealing with this week, riding a three-game winning streak, putting together a string of heartening performances in an otherwise disappointing season, only to have the offseason smack them upside the head come Monday.
The Giants, fresh off wins against the Titans, Redskins and Rams, are 6-9 heading into Sunday's season finale against the Eagles.
"You wish you could have done this earlier on this season," right tackle Justin Pugh said of the recent play in a conference call Tuesday. "You look back at some games that were close that we could have come away with and it could have changed the whole dynamic of the season for the Giants and for everyone here. It's definitely something that you wish you could get back and change, but that's the name of this game."
"Of course, there is 'woulda, coulda, shoulda' when you are in a situation where you are not going to make the playoffs, but you can't worry about that," linebacker Devon Kennard said. "All you can worry about is today and doing everything you can today and this week to try and get a win. Hopefully, we can feed off of what we have done so far and get a big win against Philly and finish the year right."
Kennard said it was "essential" that the Giants win their fourth straight game and end the season on the upswing. Even if they don't, they've probably provided enough optimism for the future to carry them through until training camp begins in July. Though there will be inevitable changes to the roster and coaching staff, the Giants seem to have a strong core of young players who will return. Star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., running back Andre Williams, Kennard and offensive lineman Weston Richburg are all rookies. And then there are the second-year players who are developing, as well -- guys such as Pugh and defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins.
"We have a lot of young players playing big roles on this team and getting better every week," Kennard said. "I think that is a huge testament to the organization and the guys that they have brought in, and to us players and the impact we want to have and to the future we want to have for this organization."
We've seen a glimpse of that future in recent weeks.
Not too shabby.
"Going into the offseason, we definitely have some good things to look forward to," Hankins said. "It's tough not to get a chance to play in the playoffs and play for the Super Bowl, but we learned a lot this year."
Most of those lessons came under duress. Injuries to established starters forced younger players into key roles. Seven of the 22 starters in Sunday's game against the Rams were either rookies or second-year players. The team leaders in receiving and rushing yards are both rookies, and if that holds through Sunday, it would be the first time it's happened for the Giants since 1950. It took some time, but lately it seems as if the Little Giants have figured some things out about themselves. Created an identity. Learned how to win.
Will the lessons hold throughout the long offseason?
"We definitely can carry it on if we can close this game out this week and go into the offseason," Hankins said. "We're eventually going to get guys that have been banged up or hurt back. That's going to make us better as a unit and whatever they have going on during the offseason, I feel like once we all get back together, the winning streak we have here is going to carry on over to next season. It's looking pretty good. I actually can't wait."