by Jon Wagner
How much can the mainstream New York media and fans overreact to taking the constant temperature of New York’s pro teams?
Well, a mere opening season loss in Washington already has some fans and media members ridiculously questioning if the New York Giants are out of playoff contention.
While that stance is a severe overreaction, it’s something that could actually come to fruition pretty soon for the Giants if they can’t win their Week 2 home opener against the St. Louis Rams on Monday night.
Now, I’m usually the one of the last people to ever call a Week 2 game a must win for any football team.
In fact, I’ll instead be the among the first to point to the Giants’ 0-2 start (while allowing a total of 80 points) in 2007 before they reeled off six straight wins followed by a period of miring in mid-season mediocrity, only to get it all together by season’s end to produce the franchise’s third Super Bowl title.
And, I’ll also look to the multitude of key injuries throughout the season – even during the Super Bowl – that the Green Bay Packers endured before winning it all last season. If Green Bay could find a way despite their own tremendous injury issues, why can’t the Giants when they still have a good amount of talent left on both sides of the ball?
And yet, I’ll still call Monday night’s game a must win for Big Blue, mostly because of the Giants’ collective attitude and their past history.
Too often, the Giants think they’re better than they are without always feeling the need to prove it on the field.
Take safety Antrel Rolle’s comments on New York radio station WFAN earlier in the week, when he claimed, “If we played [the Redskins] 100 times, they’d win… five?”
Really, Antrel? Forget past years. You played them once this season, and you lost by a good 14 points. And actually, you’ve yet to beat anyone this year. Yet, your team is supposedly good enough to go 95-5 against Washington without always playing hard enough?
Maybe the Giants are better than the Redskins. But, the current NFC East standings read something different, and the NFL doesn’t count wins on paper. The sooner some Giants like Rolle realize that, the better.
The type of team attitude Rolle admitted against Washington (he barely stopped short of telling WFAN hosts Joe Beningo and Evan Roberts that the Giants somehow, incomprehensibly had a Week 1 letdown) probably had a lot to do with the Giants losing to a third-string quarterback and a downtrodden Dallas Cowboys team last season, that New York had already beaten fairly easily on the road, weeks earlier.
And, similar overconfidence was a main reason why the Giants later in the season, blew a 31-10 lead with half a quarter to go at home against the Eagles, to help Philadelphia win the NFC East while the Giants went from a possible two seed in the NFC playoffs to missing the postseason altogether.
Rolle’s way of thinking was also the primary reason why even before Rolle became a Giant, Carolina (simply in the role of spoiler) embarrassed the Giants by 32 points with a 2009 playoff berth on the line for New York in the Giants’ final game ever at the old Giants Stadium.
And, on and on, especially, the notoriously poor second halves which have been commonplace under head coach Tom Coughlin’s Giants.
The Giants have had a worse record in the second half of seasons compared to the first half in every one of Coughlin’s seven years as the Giants’ head coach (even in 2007), with an average record that’s been 2.6 games worse in the second half compared to the first half over that time (note to Coughlin and his team: this year’s second-half schedule figures to be brutal).
The Giants need to come out amped up on Monday night, before their home crowd and a Monday Night Football national television audience and actually truly show – not merely say – they’re head and shoulders above a fellow NFC opponent.
The Giants have of course proven that it’s possible to go from 0-2 to a Super Bowl champion.
And, last year’s Packers proved that even a myriad of key injuries shouldn’t always be a valid excuse for falling short of that goal.
Green Bay dug deep from an 8-6 record and finished strong, just like the Giants did during their 2007 playoff run – but, very unlike the Giants have finished under Coughlin other than during the 2007 playoffs.
You have to get to the postseason first.
With the injury-induced odds already stacked against them, the last thing the Giants need to do is head to division rival and 2011 division favorite Philadelphia in Week 3 with the very real prospect of starting the season 0-3 with two division losses and three conference defeats.
So, although it’s only Week 2, the Giants’ playoff chase and need for playing with a much greater sense of urgency chase begins now.