LONDON -- Shaky is one way to describe the first seven weeks of the New York Giants' season. Uneven and inconsistent are others.
So is alive. That’s what the Giants are as they head into their bye week. They’re winners of two straight after a 17-10 victory over the Los Angeles Rams here at Twickenham Stadium and right in the thick of the NFC playoff picture.
Gritty is the way coach Ben McAdoo described his team after Sunday's win. That is one way to put it. Fortunate might be another. In the end, nobody cares how or when you produce those victories. The Giants are suddenly in healthy shape heading into the second half of the NFL season.
The drama hovering over the organization with the Josh Brown situation has hurt the reputation of the franchise, but it will have minimal impact on the on-field product. However that situation plays out -- likely with the release of Brown this week -- it’s unlikely to affect the outcome of this season.
The Giants didn’t play particularly well on Sunday. They haven’t for the better part of seven weeks, but they’ve somehow managed -- despite a turnover margin of minus-7 and a difficult schedule -- to emerge with a winning record. They 19th in total defense, have the 20th-ranked offense, are 25th in points per game, and tied for 29th in turnover margin. They should be ecstatic they're 4-3. It provides hope that at some point they can put it together and string together victories.
“That’s where we’re supposed to be,” star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said after playing through pain and finishing with five catches for 49 yards. “Could be a little better, be we’re where we’re supposed to be. We’re headed in the right direction. We have a bye week and everybody gets to recover now. That’s the biggest thing -- you take advantage of the time you have off, heal your body, and get right for Philly.”
The Philadelphia Eagles are next on Nov. 6 at MetLife Stadium.
Beckham is right in several ways. The Giants could be better. They’ve turned the ball over too often early this season and haven’t come anywhere close to hitting their stride offensively. Given these shortcomings, they’re fortunate to be a winning team. That's usually the formula for losing.
But the Giants are right where they’re supposed to be. They’re not bad enough to tank and not good enough to beat many quality teams (Minnesota and Green Bay) on the road.
In other words, the Giants are what we thought they were: a fringe playoff contender, although with a better defense and worse offense than expected. They’re an improved team -- mostly because of a defense bolstered by key free-agent additions -- and the playoffs are realistically in sight, despite playing in a difficult division where all four teams have a winning record.
“You know, hey, I think you could always say you'd like to be better -- that's obvious. But we've won some tight games; nothing's been easy. Every game, every win that we've had so far has been down to the wire, and it was another one [on Sunday],” quarterback Eli Manning said. “We're finding ways to win the close games. Hopefully, we can continue to do that and win some close games, but we definitely know we've got to make some strides and get better and find ways on the offense to score more points and be more consistent.
“Again, we'll take 4-3 and use this week to get some rest and get back and know we've got a couple home games. I think we have three home games in a row when we get back but start in the division with Philly, and that will be a big one.”
That’s what it’s going to come down to -- winning in the division. Four of the Giants’ final nine are against NFC East rivals.
They’ll have to play better to reach the 10 wins likely necessary to qualify for the postseason. And at some point, the Giants will have to put together a complete game. They haven’t done that yet, in large part because they’ve struggled to score points. The Giants have topped 20 points just twice in seven games. They’ve yet to score 30 points in a game this season.
What they have done is make strides in other areas.
“I think we built a tough, physical football team,” McAdoo said.
If he’s referring to mentality of his players, then he has a point. After crumbling late in games last season, the Giants have already won three games by four points or less and four by seven points or less this season.
They’re 4-3, just like they were last season heading into their bye week, but this time it has a different feel. This team seems more legit.
“We’re excited about it,” wide receiver Victor Cruz said.
These Giants haven’t played particularly well but have still found ways to win. In previous seasons, they found ways to lose. That might be the difference.