Giants general manager Jerry Reese appears in a scene from...

Giants general manager Jerry Reese appears in a scene from "Finding Giants," a series on NFL Network that takes viewers inside the team's process of scouting players during the 2013 season. The four-part series premieres Sept. 30, 2014. Credit: NFL Network

Jerry Reese usually delivers his in-progress assessment of the Giants close to the midpoint in the season, so his news conference Monday was right on schedule. But the tone of his address this year sounded as though he was kick-starting a campaign, not in the middle of one.

With his team 3-4 and looking up at the Cowboys and Eagles in the division, Reese made it clear that the Giants can be one of the contenders by the end of the season . . . if they start playing like it right away.

"We can get back in the race," he said. "It's not over right now. It's still early. There are still a lot of teams that have a chance to get back in the picture. We think we're one of the teams that can do that. But we have to start right here, right now."

That would be the Monday night game at home against the Colts followed by games against the Seahawks, 49ers and Cowboys.

Reese said when the schedule first came out in the spring, he and others in the organization looked at this four-game stretch as "Murderers' Row". Now, it seems, their season will hinge on it.

Win three of those games and the Giants can gear up for a final push in December. Lose three of them and they probably can start planning for 2015.

"We have nine games to go," Reese said. "It's kind of a nine-game season for us now."

There are plenty of reasons to point to for the Giants' record, and Reese covered many of them -- and debunked them.

The Giants have suffered some critical injuries, including the loss of two of their captains to season-ending surgeries and two starting nickel backs who have gone on injured reserve. Three key offseason additions -- Geoff Schwartz, Rashad Jennings and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- have missed time with injuries.

"When you have injuries, you have to take what you have left and you have to manufacture wins," Reese said. "You can't make an excuse that someone's hurt. That's a poor excuse."

There also has been a lot of change, not just in personnel but in philosophy.

"You always hope you can bring new guys in and they can jell really quickly," Reese said. "We expected to come out and have a better record than we have right now . . . It's time for us to stop talking about we have new faces, we have new this, we have new that. It's time for us to play good football."

Reese was critical of some of the coaching decisions this season. He said he'd like Eli Manning and the offense to be more aggressive, even though Tom Coughlin has said he would rather see Manning not take risks and reduce the number of interceptions.

"I think at times we're a little bit almost too cautious with what we're doing offensively," Reese said. "I appreciate Eli taking care of the ball and not turning it over because that correlates to wins a lot of the time, but you can't be too cautious. You have to throw the ball down the field and you have to score points in this league to win."

He also thought the defense could be more aggressive and that second-year defensive end Damontre Moore should get more snaps.

So is there a fracture between Reese and Coughlin?

"I'm just giving you what my opinion is," Reese said, defusing a schism. "Coach and I, we talk every day about how you win the next game, what's the personnel situation. Every Monday we meet. We don't sugarcoat anything. We go in and talk real talk -- how do we win the next game? So we've had conversations about all of this, yes."

Reese may disagree with his coach, but he said: "One thing I'll never do, I'll never bet against Tom Coughlin."

Nor is he betting against the Giants this season.

"I believe by the end of the season, it will be a close race in our division and there will be two or three teams battling for first place in the NFC East," Reese said. "We believe we'll be one of them."

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