Opportunity knocks -- can Giants answer?
November, 5, 2013
By Dan Graziano | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Bill KostrounJason Pierre-Paul likely won't have to chase Aaron Rodgers on Nov. 17.You're forgiven if, as a New York Giants fan, your reaction to Aaron Rodgers' injury Monday night was excitement over the suddenly improved winnability of the Giants' Week 11 game against the Green Bay Packers. Rooting for injuries is an ugly thing, but you weren't rooting for it; you were reacting to it. And the sports fan's forgivable first instinct is to think of everything that happens in terms of how it affects his or her favorite team.
So in light of the news that Rodgers could miss three weeks with an injured collarbone, go right ahead. Yes, if Seneca Wallace is the starter for Green Bay, that's a much more winnable game -- and it would also continue a potentially remarkable run of opposing-quarterback luck for the Giants.
The Vikings started a clearly unprepared Josh Freeman against the Giants in Week 7 and the Eagles went with an obviously injured Michael Vick and a woefully inexperienced Matt Barkley in Week 8. These are the two biggest reasons the Giants have their two wins, and it's possible this run could continue. Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor left his game Sunday with a knee injury, so the Giants could face a gimpy Pryor or backup Matt McGloin this Sunday at home. And then possibly Wallace a week later.
If you want to look at all of this and imagine the Giants at 4-6 and on a four-game winning streak going into their Nov. 24 game against the NFC East-leading Cowboys, go right ahead. I can't tell you not to dream.
My only reminder is this: More important than whatever opportunity is presented to the Giants by their schedule or their division rivals or their opponents' quarterback woes is the ability of the Giants to take advantage of those opportunities. And while the victories over the Vikings and Eagles were real, legitimate victories that can't be taken away, they didn't do much to inspire confidence that all is suddenly well with Big Blue.
Eli Manning hit Minnesota defenders in the hands multiple times, and if the Vikings' defensive backs had been able to catch, that game may have gone differently. In Philadelphia six days later, the Giants didn't score a touchdown. This is still a team with significant problems, and assuming the Giants will beat the Raiders or the Wallace-led Packers would be an error. Could they win those games? Sure. Do the injuries to the opposing quarterbacks make it more likely? Of course. But I think a lot of people are imagining these 2013 Giants in an outdated way -- as a good team built to take advantage of other teams' misfortune.
They are not that. They have one of the worst offensive lines in the league. They have no running game to speak of. They have the fewest quarterback sacks of any team in the league, even after getting four in their last game. Their best receiver is in a season-long funk. Their quarterback still leads the league in interceptions, even though he hasn't thrown one in more than three weeks.
The Giants have won two games ugly and are coming off a bye. They have players and coaches in their building who know how to win important games in which they are not favored. But they are also 2-6, and even if they do win these next two -- heck, even if they do that and then beat Dallas to really make it a race -- they still face a December schedule that includes trips to Detroit and San Diego, a home game against Seattle and two games against the division-rival Redskins.
The long-term reality of the Giants' opportunity is less exciting than the Rodgers injury makes the short term look. And regardless, this is a team that has to play considerably better than it has -- yes, even in its victories -- if it's to take advantage of any opportunity at all.