Midseason report: New York Giants

The New York Giants lost their first two games, won their next three and have lost three in a row since. The first half of their 2014 season has broken down along very clear lines. The three teams they've beaten all have losing records, and the five teams to which they've lost have winning records. In the Giants' wins, they average 157 rush yards, 4.13 yards per rush, 33:51 time of possession, 71.3 offensive plays and a third-down conversion percentage of 55.8. In losses, they average 82.6 rush yards, 3.47 yards per carry, 27:30 time of possession, 61 offensive plays and a third-down conversion percentage of 29.4

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The Giants are good enough to run their offense and win when the opposition is weak, but so far are not good enough to defeat the league's better teams. That puts them right about average, or a little below, which is where the standings have them.

Midseason MVP: QB Eli Manning. He came into the season with questions about how he'd handle the first major offensive scheme change of his 11-year career. He threw four interceptions in the first two games. But Manning quickly settled into the new offense and has been a steadying force. He's thrown only one interception since Week 2. He's been a consistent leadership voice in the meeting rooms, helping to bring the young receivers along. And the example he's set -- with his willingness not just to change but to do the work necessary to make the change stick -- is as valuable as anything he's done on the field.

Biggest disappointment: The season-ending knee injury to wide receiver Victor Cruz in the Week 6 loss in Philadelphia. That game could have stood on its own as the biggest disappointment of the Giants' first half, but the gruesome injury to Cruz has long-range implications. It has made it much more difficult for the Giants to run their suddenly very young offense, and if there were hopes of contending for the playoffs in this first year of their major roster rebuild, they were severely damaged by the loss of Manning's best, most experienced and most reliable receiving option.

Best moment: Larry Donnell's third touchdown catch of the Week 4 game in Washington. This was the Giants' new offense at the peak of its powers, thumbing its Big Blue nose at everyone who said tight end was going to be a huge problem for them. The catch put the Giants up 21-7 in a game they would go on to win 45-14. While they would also win the next week to improve to 3-2, the Washington game was the high point of the season -- the night on which everything went as well as it could and all things seemed possible for the Giants in 2014.

Worst moment: The Cruz injury is an obvious candidate for this one, but with that already taken (see above), let's go with Rashad Jennings' no-contact fumble in the fourth quarter of the Arizona game in Week 2. The Giants were down by just eight points at that time to a team that may be the best in the league, as it turns out. Jennings caught a pass at the Arizona 15-yard line and just flat-out dropped it. Arizona recovered and went on to win. It was one of many missed-opportunity moments the Giants have had in the first half of the season, and in a game they lost because of second-half mistakes, it was the most poorly timed.

Key to the second half: Dominate December. Actually, count the Nov. 30 game against the Jaguars as a "December" game for these purposes. Starting that day, the Giants play Jacksonville, Tennessee, Washington, St. Louis and Philadelphia to close out the season. Philadelphia is the only one of those teams that isn't currently under .500. Winning all five of those games would ensure that the Giants finish no worse than .500, and if in the meantime they're been able to steal one of the next three from Seattle, San Francisco or Dallas, they may still have an outside shot at a playoff spot with a strong finish. A super-long shot, but until the math says they're out, they're not. And the December schedule offers hope.