In the NFL, there is often a fine line between victory and defeat, being a playoff team or missing the postseason. A season ago, the 6-10 Giants lost eight games by an average of 3.25 points. Two of those losses were by one point and three by three points. The others were by four, five and six points.
The math is simple. A split of those eight games and the Giants are 10-6 and winners of the NFC East division. Instead, 9-7 Washington claimed first place and a playoff spot. So the Giants’ 29-27 loss to Washington two Sundays ago at home could have severe implications for their quest to end a four-season playoff absence, knowing the odds of them defeating the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers on the road in Weeks 4 and 5, respectively, were and are unfavorable.
The percentages held up Monday night in Minnesota, where the Giants could have and probably should have come into the game 3-0 as opposed to 2-1 after the disappointing loss to Washington. Facing the Vikings, one of the league’s best teams in the early stages of this season, the Giants were outclassed on both sides of the ball and were toppled by the now 4-0 Vikings 24-10, dropping their second straight game to fall to 2-2.
The Vikings and Denver Broncos are the NFL’s only 4-0 teams, with the surprising Philadelphia Eagles, who had a bye this past weekend, standing at 3-0 and leading the NFC East. As for the Giants, who will travel to Green Bay to play against the 2-1 Packers Sunday (8:30 p.m.) in what is a rare—for any team—and disadvantageous week on their schedule, having to play two straight late-night games on the road only six days apart, they face the prospect of losing three games in a row and dipping below .500 in a division that is likely to remain unsettled for the better part of the regular season.
Although the Vikings’ highly ranked defense, second in the league in points allowed at 12.5 behind the Eagles, who are first at 9.0, clamped down on the Giants’ explosive wide receiving trio of Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and rookie Sterling Shepard, holding them to a combined 12 catches for only 103 yards, the entire offense of the Giants lacked continuity and was unable to sustain effective drives.
Playing without Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen, the Giants’ top two running backs who were sidelined with injuries, quarterback Eli Manning was equally unproductive, passing for 261 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. But it was Beckham, who caught only three passes for 23 yards and again displayed a lack of emotional discipline and control, incurring an inexcusable unsportsmanlike penalty, who fairly or unfairly emerged as the face of the Giants problems.
In week three it was Beckham’s archenemy, Washington cornerback Josh Norman, who unnerved him. Monday, Vikings defensive back Xavier Rhodes innocuously rattled the supremely talented receiver despite Beckham’s denials that anyone other than him is responsible for his volatile reactions.
“Nobody on another team bothers me, upsets me,” Beckham emphasized to reporters in Minnesota after the game. “I only get upset with … my team, myself. It has nothing to do with anybody else. Period!”
Maybe, but optics matter. And in Green Bay, Beckham, one of the NFL’s best players, needs to remain composed and focused to help the Giants get back on a winning track.