The Giants are set up for this stretch run.
They are as healthy as they have been all season, with reinforcements arriving on defense. Their second-year quarterback is showing signs of getting it. They are on a two-game winning streak and sat back on Thanksgiving Day and got the result (Washington over the Cowboys) that benefits them in the wacky NFC East race.
Up next, Sunday in Cincinnati, is a game with the Bengals — non-contenders who just lost their star rookie quarterback to a devastating injury with franchise-wide repercussions.
It seemingly is all coming up Giants. They can move into first place, for at least one day, if they beat the Bengals. To accomplish this less-than-Herculean mission, all the Giants have to do is make sure they remember to bring their A game with them coming off their bye week — a task surprisingly more difficult than it should be.
“I think you can make too much of it sometimes,’’ coach Joe Judge said. “To me, it’s all based on how you handle the game week. The bye is very important. It’s really important for getting physically refreshed, mentally refreshed. It’s also big for self-scout and getting a jump start on some of the opponents coming up. We did everything we were capable of doing last week to help the team.
“I’d say the biggest thing for me when you get into the game week of not kind of walking into it. You have to get back into working that routine, that’s very important to me. That being said, you can kind of slice it through the league, it’s probably close to 50-50 across the board in terms of teams coming out of bye weeks.’’
In their past two games, the Giants beat teams coming off their bye, as rest and getting healthier did not add up to results for Washington or the Eagles. In a sport in which the weekly grind is often metronome-like in its repeated consistency, an in-season respite is not always a panacea.
“I think the biggest mistake is people think when you’re coming out of a bye, you’re automatically fresher and faster and all that kind of stuff,’’ Judge said. “I think that’s a myth. You have to come out and all that matters is how you play on that Sunday. You have to wake up and you have to knock off those cobwebs because the one thing is, these guys will have four solid days off without being around us as coaches or hearing our voices. Four days, this season, is like four months. It just is.’’
The Giants are so much more alive than any 3-7 team has a right to be. Washington (4-7) leads the NFC East pack, but the Giants own any tie-breaker based on their season sweep. If they win, they will be atop the division — until at least Monday night, when the Eagles (3-6-1) face the Seahawks.
“When the stakes are high, I think it brings the best out of everybody, it brings the truth out of everybody,’’ veteran safety Logan Ryan said. “In order to get to meaningful games in November, you’ve got to play some games in September and October. We had to go through that, we had to take our bumps and bruises and lick our wounds, and you have to learn something from that.’’
What the Giants need to show they know, right now, is how to come out of their bye with the rust already shaken off.
“Everyone has a bye week at some point,’’ Judge said. “We don’t write anything off just saying that something is going to be an excuse. We have to use it to our advantage. It’s up to us to come to play with the right mentality.’’