In what can be perceived as fate usurping reason, the Giants’ season will end Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the playoff-bound Dallas Cowboys, who clinched the NFC East title this past weekend with a 27-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Before this season began, many ardent followers of the NFL predicted it would be the Giants, not the Cowboys, who would win the division.Some even had the Giants going to the Super Bowl.
Perhaps the latter prognostication was somewhat implausible or even suspect, but the former was well within the realm of possibility. Given how the NFC East evolved, the Giants should name their 2018 team video “Missed Opportunity.” The division was wide-open for most of the season and much weaker than expected.
Injuries ravaged Washington’s chances and significantly stagnated the defending Super Bowl championship Philadelphia Eagles, who at 8-7 have been impressively resilient in remaining in position to earn a wild-card berth. The Cowboys, 9-6 coming into New Jersey this weekend, were 4-5 after Week 10 with seven games remaining. Their head coach, Jason Garrett, was under siege by the large and rabid Cowboys fan base; team owner and general manager Jerry Joes fed the media mixed messages on the direction he would take in addressing the Cowboys sub-.500 record; and a considerable segment of the media trashed third-year quarterback Dak Prescott.
For the 5-10 Giants, Week 1 foreshadowed a season that would become one of unfulfilled promises. Their 20-15 loss at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars was the first of seven games the Giants have lost by a touchdown or less. Four of their defeats were by three points or less, including last Sunday’s 28-27 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, a game they led for all but the final 55 seconds, when the Colts scored the go-ahead touchdown. It was a microcosm of the Giants’ season.
“You win or you lose, and we didn’t win,” said Giants head coach Pat Shurmur. Although he was a succinctly summarizing the afternoon, his words applied to all of the Giants’ close losses. Shurmur concluded, “That’s the reality, that’s the big boy part of this – just keep working and you keep trying to get better, and you keep trying to find ways to make plays at the end and both sides, really all three sides.”
Yes, it has been all three sides—offense, defense and special teams—that in glaringly winnable games have committed turnovers, dropped passes, failed to stop opponents on critical third-down possessions, missed assignments and been flagged for costly penalties that have contributed to losses.
The cumulative result is the Giants falling far short of reasonable expectations to make the playoffs.