The Giants are one quarter of the way to fulfilling Odell Beckham Jr.’s goal. But he wasn’t the only one in blue who thought winning out was possible. There was belief in the locker room before his hopes were scoffed at from the outside.
“Everybody was already thinking it,” fellow wide receiver Sterling Shepard said on Wednesday. “O just said what everybody was already thinking.”
Two wins later, it doesn’t seem so preposterous.
“We definitely do have a shot, so guys are pretty excited and amped up for the week,” Shepard said as Big Blue prepared for Sunday’s showdown against the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles.
After wins over the 49ers and Buccaneers, the first time the Giants have strung together consecutive wins since December 2016, they are just 3-7. But the NFC East-leading Redskins are only 6-4 and just lost starting quarterback Alex Smith for the season with a broken leg.
With a win, the Giants can pull even with the Eagles (4-6) for third place. The top two teams, the Redskins and Cowboys (5-5), play on Thanksgiving with a share of the division lead on the line.
“The division is still kind of open,” Shepard said. “So all we can do is take it one game at a time, execute every week, week in and week out. That’s what is the guys’ mindset right now and that will continue.”
Of course, a loss Sunday would erase all these positive feelings. And the Eagles, coming off a humbling 48-7 loss to the Saints, handed the Giants their worst defeat of the season, a 34-13 romp at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 12. It was the lone loss in which coach Pat Shurmur’s team was noncompetitive, after trailing by three scores at halftime.
“Last time we played them, I know exactly why they beat us,” Shurmur said. “We didn’t do anything that you need to do against any type of team to win. We turned the ball over, we gave them big plays, we just didn’t play well enough to beat any team, so we have to fix that. That’s more about us.”
Since that defeat, the Giants lost to the Falcons and Redskins by a combined 10 points, and followed by knocking off the 49ers and Buccaneers. They scored a combined 65 points in the wins, offering hope the final six weeks of the season could be about a potential run rather than jockeying for draft position.
“We’re a much better team in a lot of ways,” Shurmur said. “We found a way to have two good team victories the last two weeks, so we’re doing some things as a team better. Not good enough yet, but we are different.”
There have been some personnel changes since the first Eagles game, specifically up front — where the Giants added Jamon Brown at right guard, after he was cut by the Rams, and inserted Spencer Pulley at center. In the first meeting with Philadelphia, the Giants allowed four sacks.
Given more time to throw, Eli Manning has played better, and completed a career-best 94.4 percent of his passes (17 of 18) against the Buccaneers for 231 yards and two touchdowns.
“Same Eli,” Shepard said. “You protect Eli, that’s what you’re going to get. Offensive line has been doing a great job the last two weeks.”
A win Sunday would be significant for several reasons, most of all to keep the Giants’ flickering playoff hopes alive. It would also end an unwanted trend of four consecutive losses at Philadelphia and seven defeats in eight games to the Eagles overall. But revenge isn’t on their minds. Salvaging this season is.
“I feel like we have a lot to prove every Sunday. Not just this particular Sunday,” Shepard said. “We haven’t played well throughout the season. In these last two games, everybody’s been locked in at practice and we’ve been able to kind of turn things around.
“We’ve got to do the same thing we’ve been doing these last two weeks.”