EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — After opening the season with five straight losses, the New York Giants are suddenly the 3-1 second choice to win the dismal NFC East.
Rookie coach Joe Judge's Giants (3-7) are the hottest team in the division, riding a two-game winning streak. They have wins over Washington and got back into the division hunt by beating first-place Philadelphia (3-5-1) on Sunday to snap an eight-game slide streak against the Eagles.
New York is now 3-2 in the division, having split the season series with Philadelphia. The final NFC East game will be the season finale at home against Dallas (2-7).
“I would not stop short and say: ‘We’ve arrived,'” Judge said Monday, a day after the 27-17 win. “I don't think we want to look at something and say OK, we have gotten to the point where we want to be at. There is a lot of improvement we want to keep making and there's a lot to be cleaned up. I will say on a weekly basis we have seen a lot of improvement from our team.”
Judge noted the improvement is obvious watching video of the first 10 games. The offensive line is better, the defence is playing better than anyone expected, special teams have been outstanding, and the players are all buying into Judge's system. Dissension is a thing of the past.
Judge downplays being into the playoff hunt with six games left. All he cares about is seeing his team improve. It starts at Cincinnati on Nov. 29 after a bye week.
If the improvement continues, the Giants will have a shot at the division.
The players realize that and Judge doesn't mind it so long as they remain focused on doing their jobs.
“Look, it's professional football," Judge said. “I don't care if a guy is working for a paycheque or a guy is working for a championship. If both guys come out and give their best every day, that will make the team better. So whatever motivates these guys is great. My job as the head coach is to make sure they understand the big-picture goal, and right now to me that's improving on a daily basis and getting to be the best team we can be at the end of the season.”
The kicking game has been outstanding. Graham Gano, who was signed in August as a free agent after missing the 2019 season with a knee injury, has made 21 of 22 field goal attempts — including his last 20 — and all 16 PATs. His contract was extended through 2023 after Sunday's game.
Riley Dixon has a gross average of 44.2 yards on 36 punts, with a 41.4-yard net. Twenty-one punts have been inside the 20-yard line, and opponents have returned only 11 altogether for a 5.4-yard average.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The run defence had a bad game. The Eagles rushed for 156 yards, the highest total by a Giants opponent since Dallas ran for 172 yards on Nov. 4, 2019. Coming into the contest, New York had held five of the last six opponents under 100 yards, including limiting Washington to 37 yards the week before.
Heading into his fourth season, Wayne Gallman had three rushing touchdowns. He has emerged as the No. 1 back and has five rushing TDs in his last four games. The Clemson product has scored a touchdown in four consecutive games, the longest streak by a Giant since Saquon Barkley had a five-game streak two years ago when he was the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell struggled against the run. He got blown out of the play on Boston Scott's 56-yard touchdown sprint in the third quarter. He finished the game with two tackles and his playing time diminished.
Right guard Kevin Zeitler left with a concussion but he has two weeks to get healthy. The bye should help LB Oshane Ximines (shoulder) and second-round draft pick safety Xavier McKinney (broken foot) either get back on the field or closer to returning.
0 — Number of turnovers quarterback Daniel Jones has had in the last two wins.
Rest, relaxation and hope they get some help this weekend from the Browns against Philly. Washington (2-7) is playing host to Cincinnati and Dallas (2-7) is at Minnesota.
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Tom Canavan, The Associated Press