EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The historical indicators seem to be stacked against the Giants, both short and long term.
On Sunday, they will face the New Orleans Saints in the Caesars Superdome, where they last won in 1993.
The Giants will enter the game with an 0-3 record. From 2002, when the NFL adopted its current division realignment, through the 2020 season, 93 teams lost their first three games. Only one, the 2018 Houston Texans, rallied to make the playoffs.
That last stat has lost some of its meaning because the league increased the number of playoff teams from 12 to 14 last season and this year every team is playing 17 regular-season games for the first time.
Former Giants Hall of Fame Bill Parcells frequently said, "history means nothing in football." But the Giants know in the here and now, they must start winning games if they're going to reach their goals.
"It's very urgent," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "As players, we feel that. We realize that and we understand this week and how important it is. So, we've got to stay focused on what we're doing today, making sure we're preparing as well as we possibly can today. Tomorrow, we do the same thing. Saturday, we do the same thing and we'll be ready to play Sunday. I think everyone understands the urgency and the importance of preparing and playing well."
"Our back is against the wall right now, pretty much," wide receiver Kenny Golladay said. "We've just got to keep fighting. We're on Week 4 right now. We've still got a lot of ball games left. To be honest, it's a challenge each and every week, but at the end of the day, we've got to go out there and play our game."
After losing each of their last two games on final-play field goals, the Giants believe they're close. But now they must play without leading tackler Blake Martinez (out for the season with a torn left ACL) and wide receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, who sustained hamstring injuries in last week's 17-14 loss to Atlanta.
The Saints and the Superdome have always been a formidable combination for the Giants. When the Giants last won in New Orleans on Dec. 20, 1993, Phil Simms threw two touchdown passes, David Meggett scored on a 75-yard punt return, and Lawrence Taylor had the penultimate sack of his Hall of Fame career. The Giants are 0-5 in the Big Easy since then. They allowed 45 points in each of their last four visits to the Big Easy. Eli Manning was 0-3 in his hometown, despite the Giants scoring 49 points when they last played there in 2015; the Saints scored 52.
Now the Giants will face a 2-1 Saints team that – because of the pandemic and Hurricane Ida -- will play in a packed Superdome for the first time in almost two years.
"It's going to be in one of the best atmospheres we'll ever have an opportunity to be in as a coach or a player," coach Joe Judge said. "It's something we have to prepare for and embrace, and we have to go down there with everything we have.
"The reality is, though, you're going to deal with elements outside of the 11 on the field that affect your communication on the field and things you're going to do. You have to prepare for that. Obviously, we jammed the music as loud as we can the entire practice. We try to make communication as stressful and difficult as we can. In a game, if it was a situation where it was an outside game and there was a chance of rain, we'd practice with wet balls, greased balls, whatever we have to do to make it tougher in practice than it will be in the game. We do everything we can to simulate the game and give our players a chance to prepare for it."
View rare photos from the all-time series between the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints.
For many years, the Saints defeated opponents primarily with coach Sean Payton's prolific passing attack. With Payton designing and calling the plays, recently retired Drew Brees accumulated the vast majority of his NFL-record 80,358 passing yards (a mark Tom Brady has a chance to break Sunday night in his return to New England).
But these are not your old-time Saints. The team that soared for years by throwing the ball is averaging more yards on the ground (120.3) than through the air (113.7) with Alvin Kamara running the ball and Jameis Winston throwing it. In 2020, New Orleans was 12-4 and won the NFC South title thanks largely to a defense that was ranked fourth in the NFL in yardage allowed and fifth in points allowed. Through three games this season, the unit ranks sixth.
The defense features standout players like linebacker Demario Davis, cornerback Marshon Lattimore, safety Malcolm Jenkins and end Cameron Jordan.
"They're really good on defense," offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said. "They're good upfront. The linebackers are really good. They're good on the back end. They're aggressive, they're fast, they're physical, and they make a lot of plays on the ball. They're good situationally. They've been really good in the red zone. They're really good at taking the ball away and all of that. So, a lot of challenges over there."
Last week in New England, Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen unveiled several pressure packages designed to confuse rookie quarterback Mac Jones, who was hit 11 times and sacked twice.
"They do some good stuff and show you a couple of different looks, so we'll be prepared for it," Jones said. "I'm sure they have something new or something different off of it, so it's just about trusting our rules, identifying it, and making sure we're clear with the communication."
It can get late early in an NFL season, so the Giants need a win.
"(The) 0-3 (record) doesn't define us," safety Logan Ryan said. "I've never played a season where we only played three games. There are times you have two-game skids, three-game skids and that doesn't define the season. Where we are right now on the standings of the NFL, the teams that are 3-0 may not be in the Super Bowl in the end. You've got to keep on playing the weeks. I never had a team be defined in September.
"I got asked a question earlier, I've always been on great teams in my career, that's not true. There were times where the team was not very good in September. Our record was not the top of the league and we ended up closing. So, we all know football is how you play towards the end of the year, but you've got to keep yourself in the race and that's what this is about. This team definitely doesn't feel defined by 0-3. I just think that we realize we've got to put work in and execute better and that's what we're focusing on. Whether we're 2-1 and not getting better from week to week or 0-3 and realizing right now what we need to work on. I'll take what we've got to work on and we're going to work on it. Obviously, I wish for a better record, but I can't control that anymore. I can only control what happens in this New Orleans game."
View photos from Thursday's practice as the Giants prepare for their Week 4 matchup against the Saints in New Orleans.