The New York Giants have three straight victories over the New England Patriots, two Super Bowls and a 2011 regular-season win. Can the Giants make it four straight on Sunday at MetLife Stadium (4:25 p.m. ET/CBS)? If they can, they will be the only team in the Bill Belichick era to beat the Patriots four straight times.
Oddsmakers don't think the Giants can do it, making the Giants 7.5-point underdogs. Big Blue View staff writers don't think the Giants can do it, overwhelmingly picking the Patriots on Sunday. National analysts don't think the Giants can do it.
Thing is, though, good Giants teams during the Tom Coughlin era have always relished this situation, the underdog role, the nobody believes in us but us scenario. This is a scrappy Giants team. It's a scratch and claw get contributions from everyone on the roster team. Right now, its a first-place team. Is it one of those good Coughlin teams? I'm not sure we know that yet.
The Giants are 5-4, and their play has been all over the map this season. They have found ways to lose games it looked like they had sewn up. They won a game in Buffalo that few gave them an opportunity to win, a game that was perhaps their most complete effort of the season. They have played some atrocious defense, and some opportunistic defense. They have played some wonderful offense, and some "what the heck are you doing?" offense.
Heading into the 10th game of the season we know this team plays hard. I'm not sure, though, if we know whether it is actually any good. We will know a lot more about the answer to that question by around 7:30 p.m. Sunday evening.
Here is a question. Is it good enough for the Giants to play well Sunday, keep the game close, and lose? That was enough way back in 2007, when the Giants had already qualified for the playoffs but used a Week 17 38-25 loss to New England as a springboard to a title.
This time? Maybe, maybe not. The Giants face a brutal remaining schedule. If they lose on Sunday they could easily find themselves in second place in the NFC East, returning from their Week 11 bye having to chase the Eagles in a sprint to the finish line. To win the division title, the Giants are likely going to have to win a couple of games they aren't expected to win the rest of the way.
Coughlin was asked by Giants.com writer Michael Eisen if this was a "measuring stick" game for the Giants.
"I suppose everyone wants to say that it is. And obviously, when you're playing a team that's this good, it is a measuring stick for you," Coughlin said. "But again, there are a lot of games to be played, and what my goal and what we're trying to do here is to try to get better every week, to try to get a little bit better every week, so that we can be at our best when you're talking about the stretch. That's the main thing for me.
"Certainly, we have to keep winning. We're too close to the margin, we've created that for ourselves. The idea is to somehow, someway start to put some wins together. That's what has to happen if you're going to end up having a say in what this is all about."
Can the Giants win this game? Can they force Belichick and Tom Brady to stand in the bowels of MetLife Sunday night and once again answer questions about how, on this day, a team not as talented as they are was capable of pulling off a stunning upset? Coughlin is 5-1 coaching against Belichick, which Pats Pulpit says "boggles the mind." Perhaps the Giants can make that 6-1, but a lot of things will have to fall perfectly.
With the last-ranked defense in the league hosting a Patriots' offense that leads the league in scoring, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo admitted that "We need a couple of breaks."
The Giants will need to force some turnovers. They will need to play a clean game offensively, control the clock and score touchdowns. They will need a big play on special teams, or from an unlikely source.
Will this turn out to be one of those Coughlin teams that gets those breaks? One of those teams that has the ball bounce its way at the right time? That makes a critical play when it has to? That wins games in unlikely ways? That does things no one thinks they can do?
We don't know yet. In a few hours, though, we might.
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