EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Yes, Week 4 is very early to call an NFL game crucial. No matter what happens Monday night, the Giants will have 13 games remaining. That's three months of opportunities to climb up from the bottom of the NFC East standings and consistently play at a high level in all three phases, as they firmly believe they can.
But despite a reluctance to admit it, their Monday Night Football showdown with the Seattle Seahawks in MetLife Stadium does take on outsized importance for a game being played just three weeks after the season opener.
The Giants are 1-2 and looking up at the other three teams in their division. They had to score 17 points in the final 8:51 to earn their only victory, a 31-28 triumph two weeks ago in Arizona after trailing by 21 points in the third quarter. It tied the largest comeback victory in the 99-year history of the franchise. In their other two games – losses to Dallas and San Francisco – the Giants were outscored, 70-12.
Except for that spurt against the Cardinals, the Giants have not played to their capability. They are 30th in the NFL in yards (253.3) and 31st in points (14.3) per game. The defense ranks 24th in yards allowed per game (361.7) and 30th in points (32.7, though 14 points in the opener were scored by Dallas' defense and special teams).
This is the Giants' only home game in a five-week period. The next two weeks, they travel to Miami and Buffalo, AFC East teams who combined to score 107 points (70 by the Dolphins) in runaway victories last week.
Coaches like to say history means nothing in football, but one statistical nugget could be relevant to the Giants this week. Since 1990, teams that started 2-2 made the playoffs 37.1% of the time (118 of 318). But those that were 1-3 advanced to the postseason at a rate of just 14.5% (34 of 235).
The Giants cite none of this when speaking about the importance of this game and the urgency to play better.
"It's a really important game because it's the next game," linebacker and team captain Bobby Okereke said. "But it's an opportunity for us to finish the first quarter of the season strong. We're 1-2 right now, an opportunity to go 2-2, but it's another great opponent. Another dynamic offense and we're excited about the challenge."
"I wouldn't say it's a must (win) game," wide receiver Darius Slayton said. "It's only Week 4. Obviously, they're a good opponent. It's a home game, which makes it important. We want to defend our home turf. They're a good team in the NFC. It would be good to get a win against them."
View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the Week 4 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks present a formidable challenge. After stumbling at home in their opener against the Rams, Seattle became the only team to defeat the Detroit Lions before rallying to beat the Carolina Panthers, scoring 37 points in each game.
In quarterback Geno Smith, running backs Kenneth Walker III and rookie Zach Charbonnet, wide receivers DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith-Njigba (another rookie), plus tight end Noah Fant, the Seahawks deploy numerous offensive weapons to challenge the Giants.
"I've (said) to the players, 'You control the narrative, we control the narrative of our careers, of life and everything else, individually,'" defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. "I've gone down this with you guys (reporters) before, but we are going to be ready to go Monday night and we've got another tough challenge with the Seahawks. Their offense is playing really well and scoring a lot of points, but when it comes time to kickoff, we are going to show up."
The Seahawks' 87 points through three games place them fourth in the NFL. But their 88 points allowed leave them 29th defensively. Seattle has been particularly susceptible to opposition passing attacks, yielding 328.0 yards a game, which is more than any team but the Los Angeles Chargers has allowed.
"I think they're a good defense," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "They've faced some dynamic offenses and good passing attacks. (They have a) good scheme and good players. There's stuff you can learn from there, but we have a lot of respect for their defense and who they have."
When they met 11 months ago in Seattle, neither team gained 300 yards and the score was tied with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. But Richie James lost his second fumble while returning a punt, the Giants didn't score despite earning a second-and-one at the Seahawks' 23-yard line, and Seattle won 27-13.
"A lot of the same players as last year, so definitely, we (studied) that (game)," Jones said. "Some differences here and there in what they're doing this year, but a lot of the same stuff shows up. It's a similar system but understand it's a new year with a different team."
The loss last year ended the Giants' four-game winning streak and left them at 6-2, a strong start that springboarded them to their first playoff berth in six years.
So, despite being vital because it's next up on the schedule, how important is this game?
"I mean it's definitely still early; this is not a must game, I would say," defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. "It's not something that's going to keep us out or keep us in the playoffs at the end of the year. But at the same time, we try to look at the season quarterly. So, the first four games are a quarter, and we would obviously like to go into the next quarter at least even. If we start off the season 1-3, that's not ideal."
"A majority of the teams are 2-1," Okereke said. "It's a long 17-week season. The most important thing for us is to show resilience and just get better every week and we'll be where we want to be toward the end of the season."
*Since 2011, Seattle has won five of six games between the two teams – including all three in MetLife – to tie the series that began in 1976, 10-10.
*This is the teams' first-ever Monday night meeting. The Seahawks are 28-12 on Monday night, a .700 winning percentage that is the NFL's best. Seattle's success under the lights extends beyond Monday nights. Since Pete Carroll became coach in 2010, they are 33-14-1 in prime-time games, an NFL-best .698 winning percentage. The Baltimore Ravens are second at .674.
View rare photos of the all-time history between the New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks.