EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The narrative is an easy one, and New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin is right to try to sell it to his players as a motivational tool for Thursday night's game. Yes, the Giants are 0-2, but so are the Eagles, who look terrible. And yes, the Cowboys are 2-0, but they've lost the two best players in the division to serious injuries. The narrative says that means opportunity, because someone has to win the NFC East and everyone has problems.
Again, good for Coughlin if he can get his players to buy it. But I don't.
While Philly's struggles and Dallas' injuries and Washington's persistent Washington-ness appear to offer the opportunity for an undermanned Giants team to make a run if it gets its act together, that assumption ignores the very real and significant problems that lace their way through the Giants' roster. There is no depth anywhere. The only effective receivers are Odell Beckham Jr. and running back Shane Vereen. The only defender who can cover anyone (as long as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is concussed) is Prince Amukamara. Their only truly disruptive pass-rusher remains in Florida rehabbing his damaged right hand. Their offensive line could be down to its third-string left tackle.
I completely agree with the idea that Dallas' chances to win the division could be done in by the losses of Tony Romo and Dez Bryant to injury for a long period of time. But I don't think it's crazy to suggest that the Cowboys' roster is better than the Giants' roster even without those guys.
The Giants' defense has played about as well as it could play in the first two games of the season, and yet Oakland is the only team in the league that's allowed more yards. The Giants' offense has had its moments, but the disappearance of Rueben Randle, the injury to Victor Cruz and the drop issues of Preston Parker are severely limiting Eli Manning's options at key times. He's 1-for-8 on throws that travel 20 or more yards downfield and just 5-for-20 on throws that travel 10 or more yards downfield.
Can this get better? Sure. Cruz could come back at some point in the next couple of weeks, and middle linebacker Jon Beason seems to be inching closer to a return from his knee injury. Even left tackle Will Beatty is expected back at some point from his offseason chest injury. But we still don't know what kind of player Cruz is going to be coming off last year's knee injury, Beason always seems one misstep away from his next injury and Beatty isn't expected back before November in the best case. Those are Hail Mary plays for a roster that isn't one or two or three players away from looking like a real contender.
The Giants and their fans have ammunition if they want to talk themselves into hope. Washington is this week's opponent, and while the Giants are 1-3 against the Eagles and 0-5 against the Cowboys since the start of 2013, they're 4-0 against Washington in that same time. They feel good about their chances to win this next game, and if they do, then they can spin the disappointments of the first two weeks in a positive direction. They had the Dallas and Atlanta games in hand and gave them away, which means they can win these games if they just tidy some things up.
But the Giants don't necessarily deserve to be favored against Washington or anyone else at this point. They are one of the teams that other struggling teams look at on their schedules and think, "We can win that one." Until they prove otherwise, the Giants don't deserve to be looked at as a team capable of taking advantage of other teams' misfortunes. And until their myriad roster holes start to fill up with concrete answers, they're unlikely to be such a team.