The Giants have a Week 10 bye after a big win over Las Vegas.
The NFL regular season is basically halfway through.
We’ve mostly witnessed the front nine, with the back nine approaching in the new (but not necessarily improved) 18-week slate.
And at this point, overall, it’s been a not-so-delightful start for the New York Giants.
There was overwhelming optimism heading into this season after offseason moves to improve the offense and a strong 2020 showing from the defense; many believed the Giants could be contenders for the NFC East crown.
But at the halfway mark, they’re 3-6 and still dealing with various issues (at least on the offensive side of the ball) heading into their Week 10 bye.
For fans, you likely dread the bye week. No looking forward to this team bringing you on a seesaw of emotions on a Sunday afternoon; no yelling at the television screen when the offense isn’t creative; no cheering when the defense makes a big stop in the red zone.
But this season, specifically, Big Blue’s bye week comes at such a convenient time.
The Giants are heading into their annual beak coming off a huge win over one of the better teams in the AFC, the Las Vegas Raiders.
I’m sure you’re aware, but it’s much superior from a momentum standpoint to take on the bye week coming off a huge home win than it is coming off a crushing defeat, which it could’ve turned into on Sunday.
Don’t forget, the Giants needed two big plays from safety Xavier McKinney and a game-sealing strip-sack from edge rusher Quincy Roche. It could’ve very easily turned upside down for New York in the second half, and we would then be having a much different conversation right now.
Momentum is also important now considering the final eight-game stretch’s difficulty.
Following the bye, the Giants face the ever-talented Buccaneers on the road on Monday Night Football, the Eagles (who they never defeat easily) twice, the AFC West-leading Chargers, the Cowboys (who they’ve already lost to), and Washington (another team they’ve already lost to).
It’ll be an uphill battle in 40 mile-per-hour winds, at least for the most part.
If the Giants were going to develop momentum ahead of the tough post-bye stretch, it’s best they did it before the commencement of said stretch. This is especially the case when you consider how they’re still in the hunt (the 4-4 Falcons currently hold the final NFC Wild Card spot).
Fixing the health issues
The Giants are in the midst of a 15-day timeframe between their Week 9 and 11 matchups (they don’t face Tampa Bay until Nov. 22).
It’s the perfect length of time for the team to improve from a health standpoint, which has been an issue for New York in 2021.
On Sunday against the Raiders, running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and wide receiver Sterling Shepard (quad) were sidelined. It was the former’s fourth consecutive missed game after he sustained his injury against Dallas in Week 5.
Edge rusher Lorenzo Carter also missed his second straight game with an ankle injury while left tackle Andrew Thomas missed his third straight after hitting injured reserve with ankle and foot issues.
The Giants didn’t place Barkley, Shepard, or Carter on IR, which would’ve knocked them out for at least three games no matter what. This means each issue has been on a week-to-week basis, so the fact the team has an extended rest period ahead of its upcoming matchup is huge in regard to each player’s possible return.
Thomas, on the other hand, has completed his minimum requirement for games missed, so there’s a legitimate chance he could return in Week 11 as well.
Against the Buccaneers, the Giants may have Barkley, Shepard, Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Darius Slayton, Evan Engram, and Kyle Rudolph all healthy to overwhelm the Todd Bowles-led defense. Andrew Thomas on Daniel Jones‘ blindside would also be an upgrade over Matthew Peart, who has struggled at times in his current brief tenure as the starting left tackle.
Solving the offensive woes
This Giants defense is looking like it’s turned a corner. After struggling for the majority of the first six weeks of the year, the Patrick Graham unit has allowed just 13 points per game in each of the last three weeks.
But the offense has yet to find consistent success.
The team has put up fewer than 20 points per game in each of its last five matchups and still can’t develop any sort of creativity despite the fact it employs a dynamic weapon in Kadarius Toney and a veteran wideout in Kenny Golladay who it obviously values.
The Giants did run the ball effectively on Sunday — Devontae Booker rushed for 99 yards on 21 carries while Elijhaa Penny racked up 35 yards on five attempts. However, Jason Garrett and Daniel Jones must figure out how to maximize the opportunities in the passing game, especially in this type of league. Jones threw for just 110 yards Sunday on 15-of-20 passing.
This extended break ahead of the Tampa Bay game should provide the Giants with the opportunity to solve these lingering offensive problems so the defense doesn’t have to deal with significant pressure on most possessions.
Follow Ryan Honey on Twitter: @RyanHoneyESNY