With 14 games in the books, this year's version of the New York Giants has provided its fans with a season chock full of excitement and disappointment at the same time. For purists, it has been the most frustrating season they have ever seen.
The Giants' loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday was their sixth defeat this season after they were leading or tied with fewer than 2 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the most such games they've had in one season since the 1970 merger.
Those six losses were by a total of 15 points. Two of those losses were to potential top seeds in the AFC and NFC. They lost to New England by one point with 1 second remaining, and to Carolina by three points as time expired.
Although it's been anything but boring, this is no way to run a football team. The offense can move against defense in the league. The special teams are much improved. The defense may be the worst they've had in a long time.
Injuries play a factor, but good teams find a way to move past them. A defense is measured by its strength down the middle -- its spine. The Giants' defense lost its spine very early in the season.
Instead of having Johnathan Hankins, Jon Beason and Nat Berhe up the middle of the defense on Sunday, they had Montori Hughes, Jasper Brinkley and Craig Dahl trying to stop Cam Newton in the final minutes. All three of those players were out of work when the Giants called them during the season.
The offense has been putting the Giants in position to win. The special teams have helped as well. The defense hasn't been able to make that one last stop. It's the equivalent of a baseball team with a leaky bullpen.
The Odell Beckham Jr. sideshow deflected a lot of good things that happened on Sunday. The Giants made a 28-point comeback and, if they had won, it would have been the greatest comeback in the NFL in 35 years.
QB Eli Manning had four touchdown passes. He should have had six. Beckham's epic drop on the first series will go down as the impetus for his subsequent meltdown. But let us not forget that ball that was intercepted in the end zone where Hakeem Nicks slipped and fell, allowing the ball to be picked.
Head coach Tom Coughlin, who seems to be out of answers, especially when it comes to handling some of these young players. One week, Damontre Moore goes off and the next we see a disturbing side of Beckham. His face and tone show a weary man that we haven't seen and heard since he got here a dozen years ago. He looks defeated.
So for the Giants, who by some stroke of good fortune are still alive for the NFC East title, what is the solution? It just might be better players on defense. That's not going to happen until next year, though.
Right now, they have to make do with what they have. They will likely be without Beckham, who was hit with a one-game suspension, either this week or next. They have a losing record with him in the lineup, so how much worse can it be?
"We've got to focus and get ourselves ready to play and go play against a very good team, a team that's headed for the playoffs, and give it all we have as we prepare," Coughlin said. "So nothing changes, nothing changes. We will prepare and do the necessary work, and go up there and believe we will win."
The silver lining is that the Washington Redskins are 7-7 and are only 1-5 on the road this season. They play their final two games in Philadelphia and Dallas. Although they are playing well, expect the Eagles and Cowboys to come to play.
But that's only half of the equation. The Giants must find a way to get leads and hold them in Minnesota and again in the season finale against the Eagles. That is something they haven't done all year. Why should we expect anything to change now?