EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants' second-half improvement lacks an achievement they can cross off their 2018 bucket list tomorrow – a victory against an NFC East team.
Winners of three of their last four games, the Giants will face the Washington Redskins in FedExField. The Giants are 4-8, while Washington, losers of three consecutive games, is 6-6.
The only blemish on the Giants' record since their bye week is a 25-22 loss in Philadelphia two weeks ago, another in a string of defeats within the division. They are 0-4 against NFC East teams this year after going 1-5 in 2017. The Giants have lost their last five division road games.
Those records must improve if the Giants are going to climb in the NFC East standings.
Does it bother Coach Pat Shurmur the Giants have yet to win a division road game?
"That's not the motivation that I choose to use," Shurmur said this week. "How I feel about it doesn't matter. We got to do that things necessary to win it.
"We're trying to win the game. I'm not worried about it. I'm worried about winning the next game. My feelings don't matter. That's a feelings question. I'm trying to go win a game."
The Giants lost the first meeting of the teams this season, 20-13, in MetLife Stadium on Oct. 28. Shurmur, who was twice an Eagles assistant coach for a total of 13 years, has a respect and appreciation for the NFC East rivalries, which include some of the oldest and fiercest conflicts in the NFL.
"I don't ever want to minimize the importance of an NFC East matchup, and I think the rivalries are huge," he said. "You play each other twice. Every team, now with the Eagles winning the Super Bowl, every team in our division has Super Bowl trophies. There's great tradition in the NFC East. They beat us the last time through. We didn't make enough plays to win, so there's a lot there."
He'll get no dissent from his players.
"I'm excited about Washington," wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. said. "Another opportunity to go out there Sunday and do what we do. Since the bye week, we've been playing at a very, very high level, and I just hope that we can continue that. That's really all that we can do at this point. Leave the rest of the season up to everybody else and just focus on what we can control, which is our games, winning our games, and see what happens. Not really much more to say than that."
Had the Giants held on to their 16-point lead against the Eagles they would now be 5-7 and just two games out of the division lead – and with a chance to tie Washington in the standings - with four to play. Most Giants players and coaches refuse to look back at the game, or at the team's 1-7 first half, and ponder what might have been.
Most, but not all.
"Trust me, I think about it all the time," said Beckham, who stated his goal was to win the final eight games and make the playoffs after the Giants returned from their bye. "When I said what I said, it wasn't like just saying this for any reason, attention of any kind to make a story. It's just what I believed and the way that we played, what I believed was pretty much right there in front of us except for us not finishing that Philly game, which I just hope that it's not the one that's going to haunt us. At this point, we really can only focus on Washington. There's no 'what if.' We're going out there to win and if our season's over, I'm making sure somebody else is coming home with us. That's the goal. The goal is to win all these games and see what happens, but if not, you're going to have a tough game to play against us for the last four games."
After leaving Washington, the Giants will face just one more division foe this season, hosting Dallas in the final game on Dec. 30.
Shurmur will certainly continue to stress that all games are important while conceding that perhaps those played against NFC East rivals are a bit more crucial.
"To me, they're all big games," Shurmur said. "We used to joke in Minnesota. Every game we play was a big game. (Vikings general manager) Rick Spielman would come by my office every week and he would say, 'Hey Pat, this is a big game,' and it didn't matter who we were playing. Now certainly, winning the division games is important. We play against these teams. How you do in the division, obviously, can put you where you need to be at the end. So it's important for us to, number one, go win another game, and it just so happens that we're playing in the division. They're all big games, they really are."
*The Giants lead the regular-season series with Washington, 99-68-4. They can become the first franchise with 100 regular-season victories against another team.
*Beckham played in just four games last year before undergoing season-ending ankle surgery. He has started all 12 games this season, catching 77 passes for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns.
Wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said his star player has shown no signs of wear and tear.
"When it's game time, he's as fresh as he's ever been," Tolbert said. "Even in practice, you'll see he has a lot of energy. He runs around. Let's not overlook the fact that he's coming off a major, major surgery he had last year. He's had maybe a Comeback Player of the Year type of comeback, because that's a major surgery he had. For him to be playing at the level he's playing at this time of the year coming off an ankle injury, that's all credit to him, and the rehab that he's done, and the work he puts in. He still looks fresh to me. As time goes on, it's a long season. Sometimes, people have some wear and tear. He's still out there. He's practicing hard, doing all the right things, having a lot of energy every day. So, I'm very proud of him for that."
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants travel to FedExField to take on the Redskins