No one roots for injuries, but you can envision the rest of the NFC East taking a look at the Giants and thinking “Well, how do you like it now?’’
Eleven games into their season, the Giants are 4-7 and in first place in the division, by virtue of a tiebreaker over Washington and pending Monday night’s Eagles-Seahawks result. The attempt to stay ahead of the pack must go on without Daniel Jones, for at least one week, and if that is all Jones misses, the Giants should thank whoever is in charge of karma and kismet that their young quarterback avoided more serious injury.
Missing Sunday’s game in Seattle with a strained right hamstring — that is the highly likely scenario — is a bummer for Jones and compromises the Giants’ chances of pulling off an upset on the road. But, given the carnage that has gone on around them, the Giants cannot curse their fate or bemoan the temporary loss of their No. 1 quarterback.
Heck, the Giants thrusting themselves in contention for anything other than avoidance of last place is a symptom of one of the worst division races ever. They enter a minefield final stretch — the next four games are against winning teams currently qualifying for the playoffs or in the hunt — and the Giants do not need to run the table to stay in first place. They turn to backup Colt McCoy, who has won games (seven) in the NFL. But he has lost a whole lot more (21) of them.
“He’s gonna step in. He’s gonna do his thing,’’ receiver Sterling Shepard said of McCoy. “That’s the world we’re living in right now, and I feel like he’ll execute and step up and make plays.’’
All things considered, this is not a terrible game for the Giants to be without Jones. At full strength, could he outduel Russell Wilson?
“I don’t think you want to look at it in terms of ‘This game’s not as important as maybe another game coming up,’ ’’ Judge said. “To me, it’s always that one-game season. You don’t want to do anything stupid that’s going to risk the player and lose him long term. I’ll let the doctors determine what the short-term risk is.’’
The short term is this: Just like that, the Giants are mired in the quarterback slop where the Cowboys and Washington reside. The Giants certainly know something about how these scenarios unfolded.
In Week 5, the Giants knocked Dak Prescott out for the season when a routine tackle by safety Logan Ryan turned into a disaster for Prescott as he suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle. The Cowboys held on to beat the Giants that day to move to 2-3. Since then, using Andy Dalton, Ben DiNucci, Garrett Gilbert and then Dalton again at quarterback, the Cowboys are 1-5.
In Week 8, an inadvertent trip by Giants safety Jabrill Peppers ended Kyle Allen’s season to a gruesome dislocated ankle. Washington was already in flux at quarterback, benching Dwayne Haskins for Allen, and now must rely on veteran Alex Smith, with his own grisly injury history.
Losing Allen is not the same at losing Prescott, but the Giants did end the seasons of two quarterbacks in their division. As for the Eagles, Carson Wentz is healthy but playing so poorly that reports are rampant rookie Jalen Hurts will receive increased snaps.
Through the first 10 games, Jones played 100 percent of the snaps on offense, as the Giants were always embroiled in close affairs, other than their Week 3 blowout loss to the 49ers. Six of their last seven games were decided by three points or less, not allowing for any garbage-time moments for McCoy.
Everything was trending upward for the Giants on offense. They gained a season-high 386 yards in Cincinnati after totaling what was a season-high 382 yards in their previous game, two weeks earlier against the Eagles. It was the fifth straight game with more than 300 total yards on offense, a sharp increase in production over the first portion of the season. The 142 rushing yards marked the sixth consecutive game with more than 100 yards on the ground, another sign the offensive line is stabilizing — and that Wayne Gallman has found his NFL legs.
When Jones gets to add to his snap total and rejoin what was a surging offense remains to be seen. The Giants will learn what most of the NFC East already knows all too well: Life after the starting quarterback is rarely pleasant. If it is merely a one-week walk on the wild side, the Giants should count their blessings.