The New York Giants had a stunning first half of the 2022-2023 NFL season. Their 6-2 record is far better than just about everyone thought possible. Reaching the playoffs is not only a possibility, but a statistical probability. ESPN’s Football Power Index, for example, gives the Giants an 85.5 percent chance of making the playoffs. FiveThirtyEight’s Elo projection puts that chance at 78 percent.
Thing is, those projections mean nothing. There are nine games left. The Giants probably need to win at least four of them, getting to what was originally seen as an unlikely 10-win season, to get to the playoffs. Just because they won six of their first eight there is no guarantee they will win four or more of those final nine.
Giants head coach Brian Daboll often calls the NFL “humbling.”
“It’s such a week-to-week league,” Daboll said before a Week 8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. “One week, you could be here. The next week, you could be here. You try to stay consistent.”
Yes, one week you could be a playoff team. A bad loss or two and you can find yourself on the outside looking in.
Let’s talk about some of the things to watch as the Giants try to make a run to the playoffs.
Ratcheting up the difficulty
The Giants’ schedule gets tougher over the final nine games. The combined record of the Giants’ eight opponents thus far in 2022 is 31-33, a winning percentage of .484. The combined record of the teams the Giants will face over the final weeks is 29-23-2, a .537 winning percentage.
The Giants will face the 8-0 Philadelphia Eagles twice. They will face the 6-1 Minnesota Vikings on the road. They will face the 6-2 Dallas Cowboys on the road. They have two games against the Washington Commanders, meaning five of their nine games will be against NFC East teams. The NFC East, by the way, has been the NFL’s best division so far in 2022.
That makes the next two weeks, home games against the 1-6-1 Houston Texans and 2-6 Detroit Lions, crucial. As Tom Rudawsky on the 33rd Team pointed out on a recent ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast, the Giants will be favored in these two games. These games, though, are not guaranteed victories.
In Week 9, the Texans put up a fight in an eventual 29-17 loss to the Eagles. The Lions just defeated the Green Bay Packers, holding Aaron Rodgers and Co. to 9 points.
The Giants are well-coached and have won a number of close games in the fourth quarter. They may be better than the Texans and Lions, and they will be at home. They can’t, though, just show up and expect to win.
We have talked all season about whether or not the way the Giants have been winning games is a sustainable formula.
The Giants have controlled the pace of games. They have kept the scores close, and relatively low. They have relied on being fundamentally sound, and on taking advantage of the mistakes made by opposing teams late in games. Their first seven games were decided by a touchdown or less. Their Week 8 27-13 loss to the Seahawks was a tie game with 11:17 to play.
Will that formula continue to work as the competition improves? The Giants’ point differential this season is only +6, stunningly small for a 6-2 team. The 6-2 Cowboys have a point differential of +50. The 6-2 Kansas City Chiefs are +54. The 6-2 Buffalo Bills have a point differential of +102.
In the Giants’ two losses, against the Cowboys and 6-3 Seahawks, it was the Giants who either made the mistakes down the stretch or simply couldn’t keep pace.
The Giants have shown that they can keep just about every game close. Can they continue to win most of those nail-biters, especially when the competition is better and the stakes are higher?
More through the air?
The Giants are 30th in the league in total passing yards. They are 29th in yards passing per game at 159.1. They are last in the league with just nine passing plays of 20 yards or more, with the Baltimore Ravens 31st with 17. So, the Giants are not only last — they are last by a WIDE margin.
They simply have to get more from their passing game if they are going to win critical games against good teams.
Darius Slayton has 16 catches for a team-high 232 yards, all of that production since Week 4.
The Giants need second-round pick Wan’Dale Robinson, who has 12 catches for 107 yards in four games, to be a bigger part of their offense over the final nine games. Robinson is a yards after catch guy, but is currently averaging only 8.9 yards per reception. The Giants have to get Robinson into space more often and let him go to work.
The Giants have to hope Kenny Golladay, with just two catches for 22 yards in four games, gets healthy and gives them something over the final nine games.
Richie James has trailed off after a good start. Marcus Johnson has shown why is a journeyman, and David Sills appears to be playing few and fewer snaps. Maybe Isaiah Hodgins, claimed last week on waivers, can help.
The Giants are not really going to find a way to significantly upgrade the wide receiver position until the offseason. Still, they need to generate more explosive plays to make some of these games a bit less of a grind.