Optimism is the rule around the New York Giants these days. Despite their 0-6 start and current 2-6 standing the Giants want to believe -- and want us to believe -- they are still a playoff contender. In the NFC East they still are, at least mathematically, only two games behind the 4-4 Dallas Cowboys.
Can the Giants really make a second-half of the season run? Can this team that perennially starts fast and limps to the finish really flip the script? In the woeful NFC Least the Giants seemingly annual 9-7 record would probably get it done. Even 8-8 might be good enough. Can the Giants get there? Let's look at the remaining schedule:
Giants' Remaining Schedule
That's hardly easy. Five games against teams with records of .500 or better. A game against the improving Oakland Raiders. Two games with the defending NFC East champions.
"It is a difficult second half, it usually is. We're excited about having a chance," head coach Tom Coughlin said Tuesday on WFAN. "Three in a row at home, five of the last eight. God bless us, here we go."
The Cowboys are 3-0 in the division. That means the Giants simply can't lose any of the three division games they have remaining. If they win all three -- a big if, of course -- can they win at least three of five against the Raiders, Green Bay Packers, San Diego Chargers, Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions? A 6-2 mark in the second half would get them miraculously to 8-8.
Maybe Kiwanuka is drinking some seriously-spiked Kool-Aid. Maybe he isn't. If those stars are indeed aligning for the Giants to do something that has never been done before in the NFL, making the playoffs after starting 0-6, part of the reason will be the decrepit state of the once-mighty NFC East. From NFL.com:
"The entire NFC East is worse than you imagine. The Giants and Redskins could still be among the worst five teams in the league. Philadelphia's only win out of the division was against Tampa. The Cowboys are easily the best team here, and they are in a constant quest to lose in the most excruciating way possible."
Ah, those Cowboys. The fact that the Giants chasing Dallas, the team that wears a star on its helmet, is probably the only other reason to think maybe the stars are aligning, inviting the Giants to do something historic.
We know all about the Cowboys' playoff history -- one playoff win since 1996. We know all about the history of implosions and under-achievement in the Jerry Jones era, bluntly never adding up to what their talent level says they should be.
Don Banks of SI.com delved even deeper into the mediocrity that has been the Cowboys since 1997, writing that they "are a too-beautiful-for-words 132-132 in the regular season, with every win matched perfectly with a loss. It's like being sentenced to life in the middle of the pack, with no chance of parole."
Banks also wrote this:
"In the eyes of Vegas, the Cowboys might be the biggest locks in football. They're going to win half their games, lose the other half, and the only trick is knowing when they will make their move back to break even. Like they've already done three times this season."
Let's face reality. The Cowboys SHOULD win the division. They have a two-game lead. They have a 3-0 record in the division, giving them a tie-breaker edge. On paper, they have the best team. These are, however, the Cowboys. With an egotistical owner, an under-whelming head coach, a quarterback who has a history of shrinking when it matters most and resume filled with nearly two decades of under-achievement.
Dallas has already failed on a couple of occasions this season to slam the door and virtually lock up the division. Past history says the Cowboys will continue to give everyone else a chance.
Can the Giants actually pull themselves together enough to jump through the door the Cowboys will inevitably leave open? Probably not, but it sure does make the second half of the season fun to think about.