EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - When the Giants returned for the start of the second half of the season, Odell Beckham Jr. knew what they had to do. "Win eight games," he said. "Go 9-7 and go to the playoffs."
It was a "goal," he said. Not a prediction. Even he wasn't crazy enough to make it a prediction.
Two games and two wins later, though…
"It's really only crazy until you do it," Beckham said.
It's still pretty deep in the "crazy" file -- this idea that the Giants could run the table after a 1-7 start. But a second straight win -- 38-35 over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday -- had them feeling remarkably confident. And the deteriorating state of the NFC East gave them at least some reason to dream.
- The division-leading Washington Redskins (6-4) lost their starting quarterback, Alex Smith, to a gruesome leg injury on Sunday and may have to ride the rest of the way with Colt McCoy, a career backup who hasn't started a game since 2014.
- The Dallas Cowboys are probably the new division favorites after back-to-back road wins in Philadelphia and Atlanta, but they're still only 5-5.
- The defending champion Philadelphia Eagles are a mess, losers of three of their last four including a 48-7 pounding in New Orleans on Sunday when Carson Wentz threw three interceptions. At 4-6 they're only a game ahead of the Giants, who ride their momentum into Philadelphia on Sunday.
Realistically, the Giants know they probably have to finish 9-7 to even have a shot, especially since they're already 0-3 in the division. But if they're being unrealistic and dreamy, they see the Redskins ready for a fall and the Eagles already in a spiral, leaving them only two games behind the Cowboys, which is the team they're really chasing.
And with six games left to play, including three in the division … Hey, you never know.
"Crazy, isn't it?" Giants head coach Pat Shurmur said. "That's why I said through the first eight weeks you've just got to keep playing. You never know. And so if we let the noise get to us and get us all dark and stormy and weird about things, then you're not set up to do anything at the end of the season."
"The way I view that is there's always going to be a sense of hope until there's no chance of us to go where we need to go," added running back Saquon Barkley. "We're always going to believe."
For now, of course, it's really only a fantasy for a team that, to put it mildly, has plenty of flaws. The Giants' offensive line has put together two good games, which could be an anomaly based on the last two seasons. Eli Manning is playing better and the offense has been revived, but it's not like the Giants suddenly turned into the Kansas City Chiefs.
Meanwhile, the defense has fallen on hard times. They nearly wasted a good effort by the Giants' offense and four interceptions of their own when they allowed the Jameis Winston-led Bucs mount a furious comeback They still have no pass rush and are often questionable when it comes to tackling.
And maybe most importantly, just to keep everything in perspective, their two back-to-back wins -- their first two-game winning streak since Nov., 2016 -- came against the 49ers and Bucs who have a combined record of 5-15.
Still to come on the schedule are the Chicago Bears (6-3), Tennessee Titans (5-5) and the Indianapolis Colts (5-5) along with the Giants' three division opponents -- two of which they'll face on the road. That's not a horrible schedule. If the Giants are clicking there's no reason they can't beat any of them.
But beating them all?
"We have an eight-game season, but it is one game at a time," Manning said. "That is all we can focus on. Obviously, going to Philly, all we can worry about is that. It is a division game. A big one. We have to keep going."
It's much more fun for them to keep going when they're winning and when they think they have something to play for -- realistically or not. Can they really do it and turn Beckham into a prophet? Probably not. They weren't 1-7 by accident. It would take a miracle to reverse that record in the second half, and even that might not be enough.
But if they beat the Eagles on Sunday in Philly, after the Cowboys and Redskins beat each other up on Thanksgiving Day, the Giants' fate might start to look a little different -- especially with the Cowboys having to face the New Orleans Saints in two weeks.
All the Giants can do in the meantime is keep winning and keep hoping -- at least until hope runs out.
"We've got a long way to go," Shurmur said. "There are a lot of things we've got to get better at. But if we can just keep battling and fighting, who knows? That would be a fun thing for everybody to write about."