This is Tom Brady Week, and for Giants fans the sound of that summons exceedingly sweet memories. Brady has won five of six career regular-season starts against their team, but even in the iconic quarterback’s household — especially in the iconic quarterback’s household — that stat is surely met with this two-word response:
Two Sundays in early February make everything else about Giants-Brady irrelevant. Eli Manning won two Super Bowl MVP awards (along with an Escalade and a Corvette) at Brady’s expense, and after the second conquest a decade ago in Indianapolis, with confetti littering Peyton’s place, Eli was cited as the best offensive player in franchise history by the boss, John Mara.
Those were the days my friend, and Giants fans thought they’d never end. Only they sure as hell ended in a flash. The Giants have managed seven losing seasons out of nine since that magical night and, at 3-6, are now working on eight out of 10. They are 60-93 in the regular season since, and 21-52 since their last postseason game — the infamous no-show performance in Green Bay after the infamous no-shirts photo op in South Beach.
The Giants have put their fans through hell, and it’s high time they cut them a break. Monday, after returning from bye week, Joe Judge called his former New England co-worker, Brady, “probably the greatest player to ever play the game.” But the GOAT just lost back-to-back games to the mediocrities that are Taylor Heinicke’s Washington Football Team and the Jameis Winston/Trevor Siemian Saints. Why can’t another underwhelming team like the Daniel Jones Giants — who were a two-point conversion away from forcing overtime last year against Brady — make it a three-peat for the defending-champion Bucs?
But if you can’t expect Brady to lose a third straight game, this one at home, the Giants follow with one of the league’s most forgiving schedules. Philadelphia. At Miami. At the Chargers. Cowboys. At Philly. At Chicago. Washington.
If the Giants are what their co-owner, Mara, believes they are, they’ll win five or six of those games, finish with eight or nine victories, and hope that’s enough to earn the NFC’s final wild-card slot — the seventh spot in the conference. Today, the Giants are only one game in the loss column behind that No. 7 team, Carolina, an opponent they’ve already beaten. They also own a victory over the No. 6 team, the Saints.
Now back to what Mara thinks these Giants could and should be. In March, he told The Post that the roster “is good enough to make the playoffs.” Mara said in the same interview that “without any hesitation” he sees Jones as a future Super Bowl winner who could collect multiple titles “if we put the right pieces around him. … I believe the sky’s the limit with him.”
Now that he has 35 NFL starts behind him, Jones, a sixth-overall pick, has no excuse to not beat out Heinicke (undrafted, 10 starts) and Philly’s Jalen Hurts (53rd-overall pick, 14 starts) for second place in the NFC East, effectively removing both teams from playoff contention. The Giants’ divisional cause will be helped by the return of Saquon Barkley, a second-overall pick, while Washington goes the rest of the season without its own second-overall pick, Chase Young.
Strange as it seems, the Giants have a somewhat plausible path to the postseason in the extended playoff format. Asked if he has talked to his players about the possibilities still in play, Judge defaulted to coachspeak, saying:
“Our job right now is to prepare for Tampa. All those other games are hypotheticals. You don’t start looking beyond things that don’t exist. We’re going to have our hands full today getting ready to get better as a team, and leading into Tampa. They’re one of the best teams in the league for a reason, [with] probably the greatest player to ever play the game down there running the huddle. So we’ve got a lot of things to prepare for. Talking about hypotheticals? We’ve got enough real things coming at us in a week’s time.”
Judge said he “absolutely” embraces the challenge of facing Brady, and of ensuring his defenders are given the best possible plan against a 44-year-old, seven-time champ who has seen it all.
“You’re not going to go in and throw one thing at this guy and think that’s going to work for 60 minutes,” Judge said.
Mara told The Post last month that he remains happy with the way his second-year coach “commanded the team” and that “the players still believe in him.” So if Judge is the right man for the job, and Jones is a star in the making, and the roster is a playoff roster, and Barkley is healthy, the Giants should go ahead and beat Brady for the sake of old times, or at least rip through their soft schedule that follows Tampa and seize that last wild-card spot.
Their beleaguered fans deserve nothing less.
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