With past Novembers not playing out kindly, Eli Manning and the rest of the New York Giants must make sure the month starts off right.
We’ve reached the month of November, which means the NFL season is in full swing. Division leaders are starting to gain separation, teams are starting to prove if they can sustain hot starts, and the playoff picture begins to really take shape.
November, of course, is also a month that has been notoriously bad for the New York Giants, who have seen their fair share of November Blues over the past few seasons.
Since the 2011 season, the Giants are 4-11 in the month of November. In that stretch, their best record in the month was 2-1, in 2013. In that season, however, the Giants lost their first six games, started the month at 2-6, and finished the month at 4-7– not exactly world beating numbers.
In 2011, they started the month off with a brilliant win in New England, before dropping four straight, bumping them down from 6-2 to 6-6. In 2014, they lost all five of their games in November, dropping from 3-4 to 3-9, famously losing to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars in the process. Last season, they went in to November at 4-3, primed to compete in the NFC East. They entered December at 5-6, after a 1-3 month, effectively knocking them out of the playoff picture.
What is it with the Giants in November? It seems like the 11th month of the year typically is the point where the Giants postseason aspirations receive a sucker punch to the gut. 2011 was the only year where the Giants were able to recover from their November swoon and make the postseason, eventually going on to win the Super Bowl.
This season, they cannot afford to slip up in November. The NFC East is shaping up to be a tight race, as is the NFC Wildcard picture. While Dallas stand pretty at 7-1, winners of seven straight games, they have a tough slate of games coming up, going against Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, Minnesota, and the Giants, who are the only team to have defeated them thus far.
The Giants sit in second at 5-3, but are only a half game in front of the Redskins (4-3-1) and a game ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles (4-4).
The Giants also hold the fifth seed in the NFC, but are barely ahead of other challengers, such as the Green Bay Packers (4-4), the Detroit Lions (5-4), and the New Orleans Saints (4-4). That doesn’t even include the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers, who, despite slow starts, have the talent necessary to make a late season run at the playoffs.
New York has done barely enough in their first four games of the season. They have actually been outscored overall, 164-161, and their five wins have come by a combined 20 points– they have not won a game by more than a possession yet.
The run game has struggled mightily. The pass offense has been inconsistent. The offensive line is banged up. The defense has been a bright spot, but there is only so much they can do if their offensive counterparts cannot pick up the slack.
Simply put, the Giants are surviving by the skin of their teeth, and with the dreaded month of November in full swing, we should get a glimpse of what team Big Blue are: contenders, or pretenders.
The Giants are presented with a tremendous opportunity in the coming weeks: 2 home games in a row, against the Cincinatti Bengals and the Chicago Bears, before a trip to face the winless Cleveland Browns. Those are three very winnable games, with only the first matchup against the Bengals posing a real threat on paper.
Obviously, the games are not played on paper, but is undeniable that the Giants have hit a soft spot in their schedule. If they are able to win those three games, and finish 4-0 in the month of November, not only would they head into December at 8-3, which would presumably put them right in the thick of the playoff race, but they would have significant momentum heading into the last five games of the season, where they have three divisional games (two of which on the road), and games against teams with playoff aspirations themselves, Pittsburgh and Detroit.
If they Giants cannot capitalize on these next three games, it is unlikely that they will be able to claw through games against MVP candidates like Mathew Stafford and Ezekiel Elliot, or against the Steelers explosive offense, or against two bitter rivals, on the road, in the final two games of the season.
The first game of November was a huge boost for the team– despite nearly throwing away a double digit lead against the Eagles, being able to defeat a Philadelphia team that has really had their number in recent seasons had to be encouraging.
Lets see if Ben McAddo’s squad can carry that momentum into the dreaded month of November, and potentially all the way to the postseason.