The Giants know their Sunday matchup with the Browns cannot be taken lightly:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants believe the adage that on any given Sunday, any NFL team can win. But tomorrow, they will do their best to make sure that doesn't come true when they visit the Cleveland Browns.
"They're going to get a win this year," said Jonathan Casillas, the Giants' outside linebacker and defensive captain. "We're not going to let it be against us."
They have many reasons not to let it happen. Most importantly, they need to win their sixth consecutive game to keep their place in the NFC East and wild card playoff races. And let's face it, no team wants to be the first to lose to the Browns, who were eliminated from the playoffs before Thanksgiving, and have lost all 11 games they've played this year.
The Giants have studied the Browns and think they're very capable of having a breakout game. Casillas went so far as to say a struggling team like Cleveland can be more dangerous than a team that's on a roll like the … Giants.
"Everybody doesn't think like an 8-year pro like me," he said. "I said that because I think I have a good understanding that each week you have to bring your A game, no matter who you're playing against. Because when they bring it and the whole locker room is not on board to bringing their best game out, having their best week of practice and then you show up a little sloppy. A couple little sloppy pieces here and there can make a not so good record team look like a good team."
The Giants know they can prevent the Browns' first celebration of the season by playing to their own capabilities.
"We have to understand and be prepared for every game and situation," quarterback Eli Manning said. "If you don't go about your business and you don't prepare, you're going to lose. We have to have great preparation. It's not a team we've played a whole lot. We have to get familiar with the personnel, their scheme, have a great practice, go into a tough environment and win a football game."
"You want to go in there and put your best foot forward and treat this game as if it is as important as any other game on your schedule," wide receiver Victor Cruz said. "You don't want to buy into the fact that they are 0-11, or whatever the case may be. You want to go in there and prepare yourself as if they have the same record that you do. So it could be a little bit of a mental thing, mental hurdle for us, but I think this team understands that and will be ready."
They must be, because the Giants are in no position to take any opponent lightly. Their seven victories are by a total of 27 points – the lowest combined victory margin for a team's first seven wins in NFL history – and they haven't won a game by more than seven points all season. The Giants' three losses were by a combined 23 points, so a different result on two or three plays in any game could have changed the outcome.
And really, the Giants can't afford a loss. Dallas' victory against Washington on Thursday left them two games behind the division-leading Cowboys. At 7-3, they have the best record of any second place NFC team. But they have several close pursuers, and a stretch run of five games against teams that are all .500 or better and have a combined record of 34-20-1, beginning next week in Pittsburgh, which will have a 10-day break before facing the Giants (as will Dallas in the following game).
The Giants must focus on the Browns' capability, and not their record.
"I think it is going to take a concerted effort by all of us to make sure that mentally and physically we are into it," Cruz said, "and that we don't take this one for granted or try to say that we are automatically going to win this one and keep it moving; that we are focused on this game and focused on the task at hand and our execution has to continue to be where it has been these last few weeks."
Asked if the Giants' pride includes not being the first team to lose to Cleveland, safety Landon Collins said, "Definitely. They're coming into it and they need to win, they want to win. They've had a lot of close games that they could have won."
Since the NFL went to a 16-game season in 1978, only one team has finished a season winless: the 2008 Detroit Lions. Casillas expects that team to stand alone at the end of this season. But he hopes the Browns will still have a chance to join them when the Giants leave town tomorrow night.
"I've been in the league long enough to know that this team that we play against will probably get a win this year," Casillas said. "It's very hard to not get a game this year. They're going to get a win and I say that statistically; thinking about that Detroit team that didn't win a game, but when did that happen besides then? Defensively, from the way we look at it, they have a good quarterback (Josh McCown, who is) very experienced. I've had my experience with him down in Tampa. They have two good running backs. Those guys are showing up all over the film. We've got to be on point. We're at their house and we're about to go on the road. We haven't been on the road in a while. Whether it's a big win or whatever, it's going to be a tough game no matter what."
A look at the expected starters for the Giants' Week 12 opponent