Odell Beckham Jr. started it, telling ESPN after Monday’s victory over the Cincinnati Bengals that “We’re really looking forward to Feb. 5 in Houston.” That, of course, is when Super Bowl 51 will be played. Now, because it was Beckham and because this is the New York media, speculation about the Giants’ Super Bowl chances is running rampant.
Yes, Ben McAdoo said when he took over as head coach that the goal remained “putting that fifth Lombardi Trophy in the case.” Yes, it’s the right goal. Yes, it’s nice to dream and that the Giants have won enough games lately that they can dream about making it a reality. Yes, we have seen two Giants’ teams over the past decade that really had no business winning Super Bowls get hot at the right time and do exactly that.
But, let’s slow down here. One four-game winning streak against teams with a combined 17-18-1 record, three of those victories at home, does not transform a team that has not had a winning season since 2012 into a Super Bowl caliber team.
I was chatting with Dan Hatman, Director of the Scouting Academy and owner of a Super Bowl ring earned while interning with the Giants back in 2007, and he brought up the Super Bowl chatter.
“This team isn’t there yet. They don’t have all the elements,” Hatman said. “I’m not putting any money down tomorrow on New York getting there.”
At 6-3, the Giants have put themselves in a position where a playoff berth is realistic. It isn’t guaranteed, but record-wise this is the Giants’ best start to a season since they wer 9-1 in 2008 and they are in a good spot. They also have games today against the 2-7 Chicago Bears and next week against the 0-10 Cleveland Browns before they get to a five-game season-ending run against teams that are all in the playoff mix.
If the Giants win both, as they should, and run their record to 8-3 the talk of playoffs and ultimately the Super Bowl is sure to increase in volume.
“If they’re 8-3 that doesn’t mean they’re going to be in Houston in February,” Hatman said.
Thankfully, the Giants seem to understand that they can’t get ahead of themselves. Even Beckham, who first brought it up.
“It’s a great opportunity that we have at hand. We just have to capitalize and make the most of it. We take it one day at a time. We keep getting better each and every day. Bears this week. You can never overlook anyone. Just have to keep making progress as you get towards the back end of the season. Obviously you want to keep winning,” Beckham said. “Since I’ve gotten into the league, I’ve envisioned myself getting into the playoffs and what it would be like. How the atmosphere would be. That’s why I am excited that we have an opportunity and a chance. The past two years have been tough. Coming from LSU, I’m not really used to losing. 6-10 the past two years, it’s not easy to handle either. Right now, we have a great opportunity in front of us. Just have to make the most of it.”
Quarterback Eli Manning has, of course, been through this before.
“It is fun winning games, getting on win streaks and being in a situation where you feel like you are playing good football. These are exciting times,” Manning said. “Hey, when you know every game does count, they all count, but when they count towards making the playoffs it is fun to be in these situations and looking forward to these next seven games.”
The ultimate point here is that it’s nice to be able to entertain the possibility of the Super Bowl, but let’s not make this a “Super Bowl or bust” season when it comes to defining success or failure.
This is a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs in four seasons. It is a team with a rookie head coach. It is a team with lots of young players who have only hinted at, but not reached, their full potential. It’s a team with a glaring weakness in the running game that could haunt them as the weather in the Northeast turns colder and windier, as it will Sunday in the Meadowlands. It’s a team that turns the ball over far too often. It is a team is still under construction.
Enjoy the ride. Enjoy the fact that the Giants actually really look and feel like a good team and should be playing meaningful games the rest of the way. If they can get to the playoffs, we know that magic can happen. We don’t know if it will, but it can.
Let’s just enjoy the idea that we are able to talk about a team with real possibilities and a team that finally seems pointed toward a better future. Yes, the Super Bowl is Feb. 5 in Houston. I don’t believe, however, that this season can or should be defined as a failure if the Giants don’t get there.