EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – If ever an NFL team seemed to have extra incentive entering a game it would be the Giants on Sunday.
They will host the Philadelphia Eagles, their fierce rivals since 1933 and chief nemeses for the last decade. The Eagles have won the last eight and 12 of the last 13 games the teams have played against each other.
To the Giants, the most difficult defeat to accept might have been the most recent. On Oct. 22, they owned an 11-point lead with five minutes remaining in the game before surrendering two touchdowns, the last with just 40 seconds remaining, and trudged off the field with a 22-21 loss.
Given the history of motivational tools used by coaches throughout football history, it would be totally rational – indeed, almost compulsory – for Joe Judge to this week offer constant reminders to his players about that game and the rivalry's recent history at practice and with messages on their iPads.
Except the Giants' first-year coach doesn't believe in that sort of thing.
"Every game is different. Every situation is different," Judge said. "That game is over. The result of whatever happened is completely irrelevant to how we're going to play this Sunday. There's nothing that we've done in any previous game that's going to help us win this game. We have to learn from the lessons we've made, and the corrections we make based off what happened in the past will help us improve as a team. But there's nothing that's happened in a previous game, you can't dwell on momentum. I think that's a myth. You can't carry over any kind of momentum. Momentum doesn't exist."
For proof, Judge need only cite the game played three weeks ago. The Giants faced a 10-7 deficit at halftime before taking a two-score lead on touchdowns by Wayne Gallman in the third quarter and Sterling Shepard in the fourth. The Giants had momentum. Then suddenly they didn't.
"Each play is its individual play," Judge said. "You can be moving the ball down the field, you can be winning game after game. You have to execute on each individual play, you have to execute through each individual game. To me, there should be motivation anyway because it's a division game. It's a rivalry team, and it's a tough team, a physical team, it's an explosive team. We better play our best ball to give ourselves a shot to compete in this game, and that's what we're working on right now. But in terms of what the last game was, to me, the only thing that that game was is that it's over. Regardless of the result, it's over and we have a game coming up this Sunday."
Indeed, the Giants don't need payback or revenge as inspiration because even with a 2-7 record this is an important game in the NFC East standings. A victory will give the Giants the same win total as the division-leading 3-4-1 Eagles. In that scenario, no matter what happens next week when the Giants are on their bye and Philly plays in Cleveland, the Giants will be in the race with six weeks remaining.
"We're certainly aware of the situation in the division and where the division stands," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "I think there's opportunities for us. You can say it's coach speak, you can say whatever you want to say it is, but the truth is we have to take it game by game. That's the reality of how you have to approach these situations if you want to play your best week to week. That's where our focus is, and I think that's real and that's where we are."
"I think playing in this league for eight years, the division games matter," safety Logan Ryan sad. "I think they're the toughest games. I think when you play somebody twice, it's tough because they know your tendencies. They know your players. They are going to work on what hurt them last time. They're not going to make the same mistakes. They're going to come with something different. It's tougher to prepare because you know them so well so they might change it up on you. I think division (games) are always tough because of the familiarity. When we scout other teams, I know we're playing the Rams or someone we don't play as often, we look at how the division plays them. We look at how San Fran plays them, we look at how those guys might play them and say oh they know them so this is what they do. I would say that division games are always close games, are always tough games. It comes down to toughness and physicality a lot of times. I'm sure the history of the Eagles and Giants comes down to a lot of physicality and tough hard-nosed games."
This will be a different Philadelphia team than what the Giants saw in the first meeting. Miles Sanders – who leads all NFL running backs with 6.13 yards per carry – wide receivers Alshon Jeffrey and Jalen Reagor, tight end Dallas Goedert, tackle Jason Peters and defensive tackle Malik Jackson are among the players who were then inactive or on injured reserve but are expected to play Sunday.
"You have to look at Philadelphia over the years," defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said. "These guys get hit with injuries and then whoever they put out there, they are pretty resilient. When the guys come back, they have a high skill level. You're talking about Sanders, these are people with high skill level throughout this league. Obviously, some of your focus has to go to them. On top of that, you have the emergence of the receivers, the quarterback (Carson Wentz), who is dynamic. Now as a defensive coach, you're looking at all those weapons and you have to take a little bit of attention there. Now your attention is getting spread out for all these players on top of the offensive line, who can block. It makes it more difficult, there's no question."
"This is a different team in terms of who's on the field and how they're using some of their personnel," Judge said. "But I think when you get into the game, everyone has tendencies, everyone has characteristics that stick with them throughout any game plan. But it's all going to come down to the players on the field making the plays when it counts. They're adding a lot of really good players back in their roster, back in their lineup at a key time. Philly has always done a really good job of kind of weathering the storm early in the year. Then they get a lot of guys back and healthy, and they make a run. They're always a better team at the end of the season when they get healthy, and that's something we have to be very aware of."
Given their history, the Giants are very aware of what makes the Eagles tick.
"It's a division opponent, so there's a rivalry aspect to this," Judge said. "You can take the records out of it, it's really irrelevant at this point. All that matters is competing against Philadelphia and playing our best game on the field."
*Despite defeats in each of the last three seasons, the Giants have one of the NFL's best records in games prior to a regular-season bye week:
- Seattle Seahawks 26-6-0 (.813)
- Minnesota Vikings 22-10-0 (.688)
- New Orleans Saints 22-10-0 (.688)
- Dallas Cowboys 21-11-0 (.656)
- New York Giants 20-11-0 (.645)
- San Francisco 49ers 20-11-0 (.645)
*The "Bud Light Giants Gameday" radio pregame show will begin at 11:30 a.m. on WFAN 660 AM/101.9 FM and will stream live on Giants.com, the Giants mobile app, and "Giants TV" streaming app.
"Giants Postgame Live" presented by Mercedes-Benz can be heard immediately after the game - also on WFAN 660 AM/101.9 FM and streaming on Giants.com, the Giants mobile app, and "Giants TV" streaming app.
View rare photos of the historic rivalry between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.