Xavier McKinney giants
Vincent Carchietta | USA TODAY Sports

The Giants entered their Week 9 bye coming off a 14-point loss to the Seahawks. That sounds bad, but at the time, the organization and its fanbase were overly optimistic.

The team, which had bleak expectations entering the year, was 6-2. Daniel Jones was growing as an NFL quarterback. Saquon Barkley was dominant. And the young defense was keeping the team in just about every game. It was almost too good to be true.

And then, an unfortunate and avoidable accident occurred all the way down in Cabo.

On a bye-week trip, star safety Xavier McKinney found himself in an ATV accident during a sightseeing tour. McKinney suffered a hand injury and needed surgery to repair multiple broken fingers. He’s now missed five straight games and came clean the Monday following the bye week by announcing the injury on social media.

A lot has changed since.

McKinney’s injury (which landed him on the non-football injury list) is not the entire reason for the Giants’ current slump. But the incident was at least a major turning point in what’s been an up-and-down season for New York.

Before the injury. The Giants were off to an incredible start no one saw coming. They were 6-2 heading into the bye for crying out loud.

Big Blue had rattled off wins over the Titans, Panthers, Bears, Packers, Ravens, and Jaguars. One of their two losses was only by a touchdown (against the Cowboys in Week 3).

The defense, which was a point of concern entering the season, was overperforming and allowing only 19.6 points per game. The secondary was young following the releases of cornerback James Bradberry and safety Logan Ryan, but McKinney and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson were elevating a defensive unit that kept the team in games.

The Giants’ offense, despite lacking talent at numerous spots, found sparks at the right moments. Daniel Jones was making plays both through the air and on the ground all while making a case for why he should be the starter past this season. The run game was electric, with Barkley looking like his rookie-year self again.

But all in all, the Giants were playing with urgency and playing as one. And that new-era feel was alive in East Rutherford.

After the injury. Ever since that Nov. 7 day, when McKinney revealed the accident, things have gone south.

The Giants have lost three of five games, with the only win coming over the lowly Texans (they also tied the Commanders). During this span, the defense has allowed an average of 398 total yards and 28.6 points per game. In the three losses to the Lions, Cowboys, and Eagles, the defense allowed 31, 28, and 48 points, respectively.

A unit that once kept the Giants in various games has become a reason they’ve lost some. The Giants’ offense, with a weak receiving corps, inexperienced tight end room, and inconsistent offensive line, is not equipped to come from behind each and every week. But thanks to the defense, that’s exactly the position the offense has been in.

Meanwhile, the injury bug has hit the roster hard. Now Adoree’ Jackson is dealing with an MCL injury and hasn’t played since the Nov. 20 loss to Detroit. Cornerbacks Fabian Moreau and Darnay Holmes have also missed time, as has defensive lineman Leonard Williams.

On the offensive side of the ball, interior linemen Josh Ezeudu and Shane Lemieux are currently rehabbing injuries while wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson suffered a season-ending ACL tear against the Lions.

And through it all, the Giants have gone from that scrappy 6-2 team to a 7-5-1 ballclub on the verge of exiting the playoff picture.

Again, McKinney’s injury is not why the Giants are dropping off a cliff. But things definitely have changed for the worst since the incident, with immense uncertainty clouding the team’s playoff chances.

Listen to ESNY’s Wide Right Podcast on Apple or Spotify.

Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.