With a 7-2 record, the Giants are closing in on the playoffs

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — New York Giants coach Brian Daboll was happy after Sunday's win over the Houston Texans.

It would be easy to assume being 7-2 and having the Giants in position for the franchise's first playoff appearance since the 2016 season made Daboll happy.

It really wasn't. He had a smile on his face because his daughter, Avery, had asked her father for a win for her birthday. The team delivered, and Dad probably will get her a game ball or something.

Daboll laughed when asked if any of his other five children had a birthday coming soon and what he would do if they asked for a playoff berth or even a Super Bowl.

While he is a first-year head coach, Daboll knows nothing is guaranteed in sports. He came into the NFL as an offensive assistant with the Patriots in 2000 and missed the playoffs. He was a Super Bowl winner the following season, missed the playoffs the next year and then won two consecutive NFL titles.

Thinking about the postseason was easy then. He doesn't do it any more.

“It’s a God’s honest truth, you just worry about the next day, the meeting, just having practice,” Daboll said Monday. "I know it’s boring, but that’s the truth. You have to focus and stay in the moment because it really doesn’t matter, there’s so many games to be played.

“It's good to be 7-2, but again, it’ll humble you really quick when you start worrying about the wrong things or thinking about the wrong things to me in this business,” he added.

Daboll's players have adopted his approach. So this week is about preparing to host Detroit on Sunday. Worrying about the Thanksgiving game at Dallas probably will start 15 minutes after the Lions' game is over.

It's been a winning formula for the Giants, at least for the first nine games. So why change it?

WHAT’S WORKING

The running game. The Giants are averaging 164.8 yards rushing, which is 3.8 yards more than their passing average. Saquon Barkley had his fourth 100-yard game Sunday, carrying a career-high 35 times for 152 yards. He is 69 yards shy of his first 1,000-yard season since 2019. The play of the offensive line has been much improved.

WHAT'S NOT WORKING

Punting. Jamie Gillan had a bad game. He had two punts in the second quarter when a drive bogged down in the area where coaches have to decide whether to punt or attempt a long field goal. Daboll went with the punt twice from the Texans 40. Gillan's first punt was a touchback and the second went out of bounds after going 14 yards. For the day, he punted six times for a 40.3 gross average with a 34.2 yard net.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The Giants defense is still giving up too many big plays. The Texans had seven plays over 20 yards, including two over 40. Safety Julian Love made up ground to prevent two of them from either being longer or scoring plays.

STOCK UP

Dexter Lawrence. The defensive tackle is getting better and better. He was a game-changer against Houston, recording a sack and five quarterback hits.

STOCK DOWN

Kenny Golladay. The wide receiver is at rock bottom in his career with the Giants after being benched in the second half. He had two targets in his return from a knee injury that sidelined him for four weeks, including a dropped 5-yard pass late in the first half.

Isaiah Hodgins, who was acquired on waivers from Buffalo on Nov. 2, stepped in and had two catches for 41 yards.

INJURED

Safety Dane Belton had a chest X-ray after the game but he wasn't concerned. Center Jon Feliciano was banged up late.

KEY NUMBER

3 — If the Giants can get three more wins in the final eight games, they will have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs.

NEXT STEPS

The Giants are not going to blow anyone out this season. Every game is going to be a grind. The Lions have won two in a row and have four losses by four points or less.

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Tom Canavan, The Associated Press