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Season On The Brink: What Happens If The Giants Lose To Tampa Bay?

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Yeesh! Do we really want to think about that?

NFL: Detroit Lions at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Giants fell to 0-3 last Sunday with their loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, I wrote that the Giants were done. Well, the way I put it exactly was “their season is most likely over before it is one-quarter complete.”

Was I a bit hasty? Maybe. Maybe not. History, without any doubt, is on the side of what I wrote. Since 1980 only five 0-3 teams (2.9 percent) have reached the playoffs. None have done so since the 1998 Buffalo Bills. FiveThirtyEight gives the Giants an 8 percent chance of bucking that history.

To do that, the Giants likely have to go 10-3 the rest of the way. At worst, 9-4. With a brutal schedule that includes games against the AFC West — which means the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos on the road and the Kansas City Chiefs at Metlife Stadium A road game against the Arizona Cardinals. A Week 6 contest against the Seattle Seahawks. The Giants are going to have to win some games they probably shouldn’t win.

None of that matters, though, if the Giants don’t win Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 1992 San Diego Chargers are the only team to start 0-4 and make the playoffs.

The Giants are a desperate team.

They have to be, even if they don’t want to admit it.

“Desperate? I don’t know if the word is desperate. It’s a big game for us. Obviously 0-3 is not where we want to be,” said offensive lineman Justin Pugh. “I’ll say I’ve had experience being in this position before. I started at 0-6 my rookie year. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Keep coming to work, keep working hard. Obviously, you got to do a little bit more. You don’t want to press, you don’t want to push too hard or do too much. You still have to do your job, but come in here and give a little extra to these guys. We got to go out and get a win on Sunday.”

This is a winnable game for the Giants. The Bucs are a good young team that won nine games a season ago. Jameis Winston, though, is still a turnover-prone young quarterback. Defensively, Tampa Bay is wounded. Starting linebacker Kwon Alexander (hamstring) won’t play. Linebacker Lavonte David (ankle) and safety T.J. Ward (hip) probably won’t.

Can the Giants, who have their own injury issues, take advantage?

If they can, perhaps this season can be rescued and they can at least be in the playoff conversation over the season’s final few weeks.

“Our mindset is we have to get this win right here. Get our first win and go from there,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “So, we have a long football season left and anything is possible, but still the focus is on the next game no matter if we’re 3-0 or 1-2 or whatever. Next game is the most important one. That’s where we are right now.”

What happens, though, if they lose?

No one really wants to think about that. We have to, though.

The Giants will soldier on. Ben McAdoo will continue to talk about getting better, and they will continue to talk about the need to simply win a game. The questions, though, will be bigger than that.

There will be calls from the fan base for McAdoo’s scalp. For that of GM Jerry Reese. There already are. Shoot, there are every time the Giants lose a game. There will be calls for the young players to play, including — at some point — quarterback Davis Webb. The Giants, if the season is lost in terms of playoffs, will have to at some point cross the development bridge.

More worrisome to me, though, is this: Can McAdoo, a second-year head coach without the cache of real playoff success, hold this team together? There are plenty of egos in the locker room, including that of the head coach, and holding the Giants together might be a significant challenge.

What is the long-term plan, and if the Giants are going to put a bad product on the field with their current group how much would it change? Would a terrible season change their thinking on making Odell Beckham Jr. extremely rich and building around him? Would it change whatever their current thinking is about re-signing Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg? Would they consider blowing the whole thing up and moving on from Eli Manning sooner than they planned? Would they consider parting ways with at least some of the high-priced defensive talent they signed a year ago? If the whole thing falls apart and they win, say, three games, do they have to consider whether McAdoo and Reese are the right people to put Humpty Dumpty back together again?

I don’t have the answers to those questions right now. Honestly, I really don’t even want to consider them. Honestly, the Giants shouldn’t have to. I really have a hard time believing that this team won’t turn things around, at least to some degree. This, though, is the abyss the Giants find themselves looking into right now.