The Giants’ season is already at a crossroads and the calendar hasn’t even turned to October yet. But that’s what happens when a team loses two inter-conference games – including a divisional contest – with another division rival on the docket.
Should they lose to the Washington Redskins (1-1), Thursday (8:25 p.m., CBS & NFL Network), the Giants (0-2) will have dropped two NFC East games. A season can’t be totally lost in just the first few weeks, but that doesn’t mean 0-2 can’t turn into 0-6 in a blink of an eye – like it did just two seasons ago for the Giants.
Thursday, for sure, is a big game for Big Blue. And however the team tries to spin this game, it’s essentially a must-win event.
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Metro takes a look at key situations to watch as the game unfolds.
What to watch for:
1. Who steps up in the slot?
Not that Preston Parker was indispensable, but he was statistically the most productive wideout, not name Odell Beckham Jr. Parker tallied five catches for 43 yards out of the slot, but he’s since been released due to having as many drops as receptions. And with Victor Cruz (calf) still not ready, there’s a void at that position. Coughlin noted the position will likely be a revolving door until one man steps up and takes the reigns – until Cruz is ready, of course. That list includes rookie Geremy Davis, return specialist Dwayne Harris, and Rueben Randle.
Harris, who has yet to catch a pass in his first season with the Giants, noted that he’s more than ready to expand his role. “I’m hoping so. An increased role in special teams, increased role [in a] wideout standpoint – I’ll do anything to contribute to helping the team win.”
2. How mentally tough is Big Blue?
The Giants set an NFL record for blowing double-digit fourth-quarter leads to start the season. That’s scarring for any team, let alone one that hasn’t been very good in recent years. Big Blue will need to start fast and show some mettle when times get tough in order to exorcise the recent losses.
Cornerback Prince Amukamara thinks his team is already past the two debacles. “We’ve learned from it and now it’s on to a must-win game. And I only say that because division games mean more. Our top goal is to win the division [and] this game, we need to beat the Redskins and get a win in the division. This division is up for grabs … This is going to be another big week for us. We could easily be 2-0, and everyone knows that. But we can’t dwell. That can be poisonous.”
3. Can the Giants perfect the little things?
They’ve blown two leads late, and while that sometimes means a lack of depth was finally exposed as the game waned on, it also simply means that a team isn’t paying attention to the details necessary to close out games. Eli Manning has yet to throw an interception, and has been as statistically good as any quarterback so far (485 yards passing, two touchdowns, and a 61.8 completion rate), but he’s failed miserably down the stretch when it mattered most.
He’s hoping to change that on Thursday. “The receivers have been doing a good job. I’ve just got to make better throws. I missed [tight end] Larry [Donnell] late [against the Falcons] when I didn’t get the ball down and give him the opportunity to make that catch ... Everybody’s got to play better. Everybody’s got to do their part, and it starts with me.”
Beckham has been adamant that Manning shouldn’t bear the brunt of the blame, as he called upon everyone to clean up their own messes. “We’ve been beating ourselves. There’s things that we need to correct -- dropped balls, fumbles, whatever the case may be. We just need to clean it up and find a way to get it done.”