Adam Hunger/Associated Press
The New York Giants are not a good football team.
They’re 3-7, they’re without top offensive weapon Saquon Barkley and veteran left tackle Nate Solder, quarterback Daniel Jones is often mistake-prone to a comical degree, and a generous review of their defense would conclude that they lack elite talent on that side of the ball.
And yet, following a 27-17 Week 10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, the consistently competitive Giants have a serious shot at hosting a playoff game in January.
Nobody in the wreckage that is the NFC East has more wins this season than the G-Men, who would have the outright lead in said division if not for a late collapse in a one-point loss to the Eagles last month. Still, they’re just a game back of Philly, which laid an egg coming off a bye Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
With the depleted Dallas Cowboys seemingly toast and the Washington Football Team coming off a seventh loss in eight games, it will likely come down to Philadelphia and New York—and the Giants have all the momentum entering the home stretch.
The Giants are now 3-3 in their last six games, with their three losses coming by a combined total of six points. The roster is riddled with as many holes as Bonnie and Clyde’s death car, but they’ve lost just one game this season by more than 10 points.
By all indications, they’re fighting hard for rookie head coach Joe Judge.
Following their Week 11 bye, the Giants might be favored to beat the Cincinnati Bengals. Nobody should expect them to be blown out by the Arizona Cardinals or Cleveland Browns in December home games, and at this point, it would be surprising if they weren’t laying points against the Cowboys at MetLife in Week 17. That could mean a 7-9 record, which might actually be enough to capture that joke of a division.
That would force Philadelphia to finish 4-3 with a tougher schedule, which seems highly unlikely based on what we’ve seen from the banged-up, oft-lifeless Eagles against non-divisional opponents this season.
And while veteran Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz continues to be mired in what appears to be a season-long slump, Jones has seemingly begun to figure it out. He was dramatically more effective than Wentz on Sunday, but he was cutting down on his mistakes before that turnover-free performance against the Eagles.
After turning the ball over 29 times in his first 16 NFL games, he’s committed seven turnovers in his last seven starts.
Seth Wenig/Associated Press
“This guy’s a young player who’s developing. He’s learning a lot every week. You can see his improvement week-to-week,” Judge said of Jones after Sunday’s win. “Sometimes there’s something you only get off the tape, and he understands that—we correct that in practice [by] working hard. But there’s a lot of games he’s played where maybe there’s a blemish that takes away from the 99 percent of the really good football he’s played.”
Is he a star? Absolutely not yet. He’s thrown just six touchdown passes since Week 2, and he still has more picks (nine) than touchdown throws (eight) on the year. He also ranked near the bottom of the league with a 6.1 yards-per-attempt average entering Week 10.
But this was also Jones’ third game with at least 60 rushing yards in the last five weeks, as well as his fifth with at least 40 yards on the ground this season. He won’t be mistaken for fellow 2019 first-round pick Kyler Murray, but he’s a true dual-threat quarterback, and the progress is undeniable.
The offensive line remains a vulnerable work in progress, and a low-profile defense that ranked 28th in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at Football Outsiders against the pass through nine weeks has been exposed frequently. But Jones, Barkley’s replacement (Wayne Gallman) and pass-catchers Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and Golden Tate have shined enough to compensate for those deficiencies.
It’s also worth noting they’ve surrendered 25 or fewer points in five consecutive games now. They ranked tied for second in football with 15 takeaways through nine weeks, and with Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence and Dalvin Tomlinson up front and Blake Martinez and Jabrill Peppers behind them, they’d given up just 3.7 yards per rushing attempt before a non-terrible performance against Miles Sanders and the Eagles’ running game Sunday.
Remember: Non-terrible is NFC East for good.
Put it all together and the inspired, surging Giants might actually be the least flawed team in a tremendously flawed division.
Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow him on Twitter: @Brad_Gagnon.