TAMPA, Fla. — It starts with belief. The rest of the world can listen to the Giants and scoff. The rest of the world can interpret their words as pure delusion, the kind of stuff that gets you out of bed as a football player but doesn’t carry the day on the field during a game. The rest of the world can laugh at the words “make a run.”
But it starts with the Giants believing that.
Without that, what we have is a vast abyss.
“I think we’re certainly excited about where this team’s going,” Giants quarterback Daniel Jones said this past week, as he and his teammates prepared for Monday night’s intriguing showdown with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.
“I think we feel like we’ve improved week-to-week as a team. But right now, our focus is on this week and making sure we’re prepared to play the Bucs and play our best football on Monday night.”
Added receiver Kenny Golladay: “We’ve just got to keep stacking games on top of games and coming out with W’s.”
It starts with them. It starts with that. It starts with believing that these kind of things are possible. It doesn’t matter that you genuinely have to contort yourself into a jumbo pretzel to logically see the Giants making that run from 3-6 to 9-8 or 8-9 or whatever will secure the seventh seed in an expanded playoff format.
It doesn’t matter that by the time the Giants kick off Monday night, still full of belief, that there will be only one other NFC team — the Lions — owning fewer wins than they do. Doesn’t matter that while the Giants and their fans look at the coming weeks and the coming opponents after Tampa — Washington! Philly (twice)! Miami! Chicago! — and dreaming of ways to take advantage of the “soft” portion of the schedule, the players and fans of Washington, Philly (twice!), Miami and Chicago are looking at the Giants in the same ravenous way.
As if they’re looking at the Mr. Softee truck on an August afternoon.
“I know one thing,” coach Joe Judge said. “I know we’re going to give an honest effort for 60 minutes every week.”
We all know that by now. Nobody has ever questioned the Joe Judge Giants’ want-to, or their intensity, or their competitiveness, or their commitment to giving a professional effort every week. The question comes in the results. The question comes at the end of those 60 minutes, what the scoreboard says, what the standings insist.
Which is why belief is a wonderful thing to have.
And the Giants have lots and lots of belief.
They have lots and lots of self confidence.
What they need is a victory Monday. They do not need another night when they fight valiantly and limp off the field tough-luck losers — they’ve been-there, done-that plenty. They don’t need for the Manning brothers to serenade them with poetry as they did during their near-miss Monday game against Kansas City a few weeks ago.
The time for close-but-no-cigar is over.
The Giants need the cigar. They need to walk into Raymond James, hit the Bucs in the mouth, and walk off the field 4-6. They need to ignore the point spread — they’re 10.5-point dogs, as of Sunday — and the fact the the Bucs are not only the defending champions but also remain a smart pick to repeat, at the least as NFC champions.
And, yes, they need to understand that for all of the franchise highlights that have been built at the expense of the opposing quarterback Monday night, they will still have to figure out a way to beat Tom Brady. And Brady has not lost three games in a row in 19 years. And Justin Tuck and Michael Strahan and friends will not be busting through the doors in Tampa to let the blue ghosts loose on Brady.
“I’ve seen this movie before,” Judge said of his old colleague in New England. “This guy prepares relentlessly. He’s the ultimate competitor, so in terms of what’s happened in previous games, none of that will have any bearing on this game. It’s all going to be about how their team executes and our team executes for 60 minutes.”
Precisely. And if the Giants are going to justify their belief that they are primed to do something special, they must actually do something special. It’s hard to take seriously the playoff aspirations of a 3-6 team. Get to 4-6? Maybe we can really talk then. It’s there for them. Now comes the hard part. Now comes having to actually win the football game.
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