(Long Island, N.Y.) Heading into Week 15, the New York Giants held a slim lead over two of their most bitter rivals. Both the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys were in a position to earn their eighth win of the season and grab a share of first place in the division if Big Blue dropped a tough road contest in Atlanta.
As luck – or bad luck, depending on your perspective – would have it, the scenario played out in that exact manner.
A three-way tie (not counting tie breakers for now) in the NFC East this late in the campaign brings back memories of when this division was the best in football. It is a far cry from that right now, but a much-improved group, nonetheless, from recent years.
Now with the season slowly slipping away from them, the Giants (8-6) know that they have to get back on track if they have any hope of defending their Super Bowl championship. “We have two games left and we have to win (them),” said Eli Manning. “What else happens after that we can’t control. We can control these next two games that we play. We need to win those two.”
With a 1-1 split in each season series versus Washington and Dallas, the G-Men also own a 2-3 mark versus all divisional opponents, with one left in the finale versus the Philadelphia Eagles. That is the second tiebreaker, if it comes down to it. So it is certainly possible that the Giants can finish on the outside looking in, even if they do win outright.
“We are not worried about (anything),” said defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. “We are just trying to win two more games. That’s it. There’s no destiny.”
Injured running back Ahmad Bradshaw missed the 34-0 defeat at the hands of the Falcons, but recognizes a similar path of being on the edge of the playoffs. “We do it every year,” he said. “Just right now we’re inconsistent and it’s something that we’ve got to work on. We play better with our backs up against the wall and the ‘playoffs’ start now. So that’s how we’re looking at it. We lose and we’ll be home for the playoffs. So we’ve just got to keep fighting; just keep our spirits up.”
The Giants’ next opponent is also a contender who has had their fare share of recent trouble and although they are not as desperate, can be just as dangerous. The Ravens (9-5) have dropped two straight games at home, a place where they were previously invincible. They have a one-game lead over the Cincinnati Bengals and are looking to snap an overall three-game losing streak. So Baltimore may be like heading into a hornet’s nest for the Giants on Sunday. But Tom Coughlin knows that there is no margin of error at this juncture.
“There is a lot of fire and a lot of character in that locker room,” the veteran head coach said. “We have to come back from a devastating loss and shake it off somehow, someway. We have to come back as competitors and prepare ourselves for a very difficult game and then one to follow.”
“With these two games left, unfortunately, we are two and two in this six game schedule and we needed to be better than that.”
The division was there for the taking and the Giants let it slip away. They still can recover and be exactly where they should have been, but the road will not be as easy.