Twenty-eight. That is the magic number, as general manager Jerry Reese pointed out way back at the beginning of training camp. Magic number for what, you ask? It is the magic number of points per game that separates the elite teams in the NFL from the ones, like the New York Giants, who are fighting for their lives every week in the NFL.
Here is what Reese said way back in early August.
"If you don't score 28 points in this league, it's hard to win. Those 14-10 games, there are not a lot of those games left around the National Football League in light of how the rules favor the offense mostly, how the rules are made now. So you have to score points," Reese said back then. "I still think you need to have a solid defense, but the rules now favor the offense. In my opinion, the rules favor the offense mostly and you have to score points because if you don't score points -- if you're playing from behind all the time, it's hard to win football games. You've got to get out and score points. We hope our offense can do that."
Why bring this up now? Because, as the Giants sit at 3-3 struggling to save their season and having had opportunities to be in a much better position than they currently are, it has to be the offense that has been the biggest overall disappointment through the first six games.
The Giants average 23.2 points per game, 12th in the league. They have reached that 28-point figure only twice, against the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers. Not coincidentally, they won both of those games. They are 1-4 when they have failed to score at least 28 points.
The much-maligned defense has yet to surrender 28 points in a game, having given up 27 points on three occasions. So, what does that tell you? If the Giants were consistently hitting that 28-point target they would be in a much better position record-wise than they are now.
There are four teams in the league average better than 28 points per game -- the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals. Combined record? 20-3. Toss in the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers, each averaging 27 points or better, and that overall record climbs to 31-3.
Reality is, the Giants don't have a great defense. They were never going to have one. There isn't enough talent, not enough dynamic play-makers. They don't rush the passer well enough. There are some issues in coverage, especially with Prince Amukamara out. The defense, though, whatever game-winning drives it has given up or stops it has failed to make can't be looked at as the primary issue. Realistically, the defense has -- for the most part -- done enough. Asking this defensive group to win games was always going to be a recipe for disaster.
There is a formula for the Giants to win, and it is the one that carried the Dallas Cowboys to 12 victories and an NFC East title a year ago. The Cowboys, as you recall, had an under-manned but opportunistic defense in 2014. Sound familiar? They protected that defense, not asking too much, by controlling the ball and the score with a devastatingly good offense and by being solid on special teams.
It is the same formula that could carry the Giants. Only too often this season the Giants' offense has not carried its weight.
Head coach Tom Coughlin said he was "shocked" by the offensive ineptitude on Monday against Philadelphia, with three turnovers and zero points off four Eagles' turnovers. Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said "we weren't executing, period."
There have been a number of issues on offense. Clock management and curious play-calling, inability to run the ball with any consistency, red zone struggles, not getting the ball to Odell Beckham Jr. during the second halves of games, recent struggles in pass protection.
The Giants need to get them figured out. Eli Manning and Co. were supposed to be the group that did the heavy lifting for the Giants. If they can't, Big Blue will come up small again.