Credit: Bill Moore photo

The Giants have reason for optimism. They have won two games in a row—both versus division opponents—and by the eye-test are the best team in the weak NFC East. Their body language, full of swagger, in defeating the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles in Weeks 9 and 10 respectively, reflect a team whose confidence is growing after a discouraging 1-7 start.

Being deep in the playoff hunt, a function of every team in the division struggling to string together wins, has been a considerable galvanizing factor. “Yeah, for sure,” said Giants defensive tackle Leonard Williams on Monday when asked if being in playoff contention is added motivation.

“I haven’t been to the playoffs yet, I got close one year when I went 10-6 with the Jets my rookie year. Since then, I haven’t really been close to going to the playoffs,” he expounded. “That’s kind of far down the line still. Like I said, we just finished close to midseason. It’s kind of hard for us to look that far ahead. If we do something like that, we might mess around and overlook a team.”

Coming off their bye-week, the Giants find a fortuitous spot on their schedule, as they will travel to Cincinnati to play the 2-7-1 Bengals. At 3-7, the Giants’ record essentially matches the Bengals’ futility. Yet the two teams aren’t equals. The Bengals are terrible. The situation became even bleaker last Sunday when Joe Burrow, their promising rookie quarterback, suffered a severe knee injury in the Bengals’ 20-9 loss to the Washington Football Team, tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee.

Burrow, the No.1 overall pick in last April’s NFL Draft after leading LSU to college football’s national championship last January, was a leading candidate to win the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Playing behind a porous offensive line, Burrow was sacked 32 times this season, third most of any QB, as the Bengals’ offensive coaching staff, led by head coach Zac Taylor, failed to adequately protect their most valuable asset.

In the face of little support up front, the 23-year-old Burrow still managed to throw for over 300 yards five times, which tied him for the second most in league history by a first-year player.

The Giants’ offensive line has also been the subject of extensive media attention with the firing of Marc Colombo last week. In a surprising move, Colombo, who oversaw the rapidly improving unit, was terminated after a reported heated verbal confrontation with head coach Joe Judge over alleged philosophical differences. Colombo was replaced by longtime NFL assistant Dave DeGuglielmo, who was on the New England Patriots staff with Judge in 2014 and 2015.

Allegedly Colombo, who held the title offensive line coach, was angered when Judge informed him the organization was bringing on DeGuglielmo as a consultant. “I’ll just say on the entire situation, I made this clear from day one, I’m always going to make every decision what I see is best for the team,” said Judge during a session with the media on Monday.

“This decision was no different. Look, there’s been a lot of information out there, a lot of misinformation. A lot of people have done a lot of digging trying to figure out details of the situation. I’m not going to rehash any of that. I’ll just say on the whole thing, we wish Marc well going forward. The decision we made was in the best interest of the New York Giants, short- and long-term.”