Tonight against the Cincinnati Bengals, the 2016-17 New York Giants can finally find out exactly who they are.
Leading up to Monday Night Football, and a matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals, the New York Giants have known the gravity of the matchup facing them. Marvin Lewis’ team has made the postseason five years on the trot, winning the division twice.
Despite a sub-.500 record, Ben McAdoo’s Giants need to understand that they cannot be underestimated.
However, the pressure on the Giants has increased almost tenfold — all three division rivals won on Sunday. The Philadelphia Eagles beat the Atlanta Falcons, the Washington Redskins beat the Minnesota Vikings, and the Dallas Cowboys beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. Those are three impressive victories against three playoff hopefuls.
The Giants are still in second place in the NFC East, and a win will keep them there, a whole game ahead of the Eagles and a half game ahead of the Redskins. More importantly, a win gives them a one-game lead in fifth place in the NFC, as the top wild card team.
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With games against very beatable Chicago and Cleveland teams in the coming weeks, this Bengals game represents a huge opportunity for New York to show us what type of team they are.
The Giants have walked a tight rope all season long. Their five wins have been anything but convincing. Just last week, after racing to a double digit lead against the Eagles, they nearly threw the game away. Their biggest margin of victory this season has been seven points. They squeaked by the Cowboys, Saints, Ravens, and Eagles, and had to come from behind to beat the Rams in London.
So, do the Giants have the look of a playoff team?
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Based off record, sure. They have the best record among teams who are not leading their division. Three of the four teams they’ve beaten have winning records. Moreover, they are the only team in football to knock off the high-flying Cowboys, who have since won eight in a row.
Based off their roster, why not consider them a playoff team?
However, the Giants have not utilized the best of their offense and defense into one complete game. They scraped together five wins, a trend that must cease as we head into the second half of the season.
The Bengals are hungry to get back into the playoffs and, despite struggling mightily on the defensive side of the ball, are still very much alive in the AFC North.
Monday Night Football will go a long way in establishing the Giants’ identity. A strong, team win in primetime could propel them further into the playoff conversation, along with giving them a crucial win against a good team. A loss, which would set them back to 0-3 in primetime, would seriously jeopardize their chances at catching Dallas and winning the division.
The Giants are favorites against the Bengals, but only by a small margin. Games like these ones determine the overall success of a team’s season.
If New York can ride their home crowd and talent, and rise up against a very strong Cincinnati team, who knows — maybe this team is more than a fringe playoff contender.
There is a lot more on the line tonight than a win or a loss. The Giants have a chance to establish an identity in primetime: a team who whittles under pressure, and who isn’t a legitimate postseason threat, or a team with a real shot to do some damage in January.
McAdoo, Manning, and the rest of Big Blue are going to have to bring it tonight. We’ll see what they have in store not only for tonight, but potentially for the rest of the season as well.