Giants' bounceback should begin now with easy strech of schedule

They’ve been bruised and battered and crushed by the NFL elite, limping their way to another dismal start. They’ve dropped three straight games, sinking into the basement of a once-shaky NFC East.

But now comes the easy part. Now comes the part where the Giants get a chance to take off.

We know how this sounds, especially since we’re talking about a team that’s currently four years into the playoff dark age that John Mara has so badly wanted to avoid: You want to believe, but see no reason why. Big Blue is 2-3 right now, with a high-powered offense that’s stagnating, a high-priced defense that can’t breathe on QBs, and a high-maintenance receiving star, and somehow it’s already in the cellar of a division that includes two rookie QBs.

But there’s plenty of time for the Giants to save their season — and there’s never been more opportunity. Because this year, the Scheduling Gods have set the table for a Big Blue bounceback, laying out a yellow-brick October and November.

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So the sky isn’t falling in East Rutherford, because somehow, there’s still a clear runway to the postseason.

“We know we can compete with all the teams,” offensive guard Justin Pugh says. “We’ve gone out there and it hasn’t been, like, blowouts. And we’ve played some really good teams.”

The Giants' tough stretch ended with a loss in Green Bay.

The Giants’ tough stretch ended with a loss in Green Bay.

(Mike Roemer/AP)

The Giants have already battled through perhaps their toughest stretch of the schedule, and they’re hardly out of the NFC East race. Big Blue opened the season by facing five opponents who have a combined record of 16-7. Those five opponents have combined to dominate, outscoring teams by 86 points. And for those complaining about the dismal sack production of free agent jewel Olivier Vernon and the defensive line, note that the Giants’ first five opponents all rank among the league’s top three in sacks allowed.

The last two weeks were the most taxing phase of that tough start. In back-to-back weeks, the Giants lost on the road, first to the NFL’s lone remaining undefeated team, the Minnesota Vikings, then to the always-potent Green Bay Packers.

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“That’s as tough a little two-game stretch as you’ll find,” says Pugh. “Where you’re going back to the midcoast, prime time, two weeks in a row. It’s a little grind on the body.”

“We just played two playoff-caliber teams,” adds running back Rashad Jennings, who’s finally nearing a return from a thumb injury that cost him three games. “And we cut on the tape, it felt like we had an opportunity to win.”

That grind is done now. Over the next two months, the Giants won’t face a single truly dominant team. Their next six opponents have been outscored by a whopping 144 total points, combining to go 12-17 this season. And with the exception of the surprising Eagles (Week 9), every team Big Blue faces over the next two months seems even worse than its record.

Rashad Jennings is preparing to return from a thumb injury.

Rashad Jennings is preparing to return from a thumb injury.

(Matt Rourke/AP)

This Sunday, there are the Ravens (3-2), who have looked even more lost on offense than the Giants have, so much so that John Harbaugh replaced his offensive coordinator on Monday. Next week’s opponents, the Los Angeles Rams, are an early-season surprise, but not a single person thinks their sustainable, not with Case Freaking Keenum at quarterback.

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Sure, the Giants could struggle against 3-1 Philly in Week 9. But then the schedule turns into a record-boosting trampoline, with games against the disappointing Bengals (2-3), and hapless Bears (1-4) and winless Browns (0-5). The Giants won’t face a truly dangerous team until a Dec. 4 trip to Pittsburgh.

It’s no wonder Jennings twists his hand into an airplane shape and pretends it’s taking off when he’s asked where Big Blue is headed.

“We’re gonna go like this, for sure,” he says.

And if the Giants crash? They’ll have no one to blame but themselves.

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nfl
new york giants

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