The division is in sight. It doesn't matter if the New York Giants haven't beaten anyone aside from the Washington Football Team or that they almost allowed a 17-point halftime lead on Sunday slip away. The Giants are in the NFC East mix through nine weeks.
The Giants beat Washington, 23-20, at FedEx Field. In most seasons, that wouldn't do much. The Giants (2-7) needed late interceptions by Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan to escape, and there is little reason to believe this team can string together a significant number of wins this season.
But with the division-leading Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1) on deck next week at MetLife Stadium, it's a game that can put New York a half game out of first place. There is no denying it will go a long way in determining the 2020 NFC East champion.
All the Giants have to do is play the way they did against Washington in the first half, when they outgained their opponent 244-132 and forced three turnovers. And run the ball like they did (rushing for 166 yards on 35 carries) while quarterback Daniel Jones doesn't hurt the team with turnovers.
Jones didn't commit a turnover for the second time in 21 career starts. Ironically, both of those came against Washington, the only team Jones has beaten since winning his first career start. Jones is 4-0 against Washington. He's 1-16 against everybody else. This season, it's enough for the Giants to at least pretend they have a chance to win this terrible division.
The Giants have refused to let themselves think about competing for the division lead; they have maintained they need to worry about themselves getting better and doing enough to win games. Now at least they have more than one measly win vs. Washington -- it's now a second consecutive season sweep of Washington.
The Giants have improved because this was the kind of game they would have lost in recent weeks. They had their halftime lead cut to three and Washington had the ball twice in the final five minutes. But this time, they made the key stops.
Next on the list? Proving they can beat Philadelphia or the Dallas Cowboys. The Giants have lost eight straight to the Eagles and seven consecutive to the Cowboys. The Eagles will also be coming off their bye week and getting healthier with several key contributors expected to return from injury.
Bold prediction for next week: Golden Tate returns with a bang. He scored a long touchdown the last meeting with Philadelphia, one of his former teams. He will do it again next Sunday.
Tate is expected to be back at practice this week for the Giants after being left at home for Sunday's matchup with Washington as discipline for his actions on Monday night. And while his snaps might be limited -- rookie Austin Mack likely earned some playing time moving forward by leading the Giants with four catches for 72 yards in his place -- we've still seen Tate produce despite the decreasing playing time.
Tate has scored a touchdown in each of the past two games he's played.
Eye-popping NFL Next Gen Stat: Rookie OT Matt Peart's 24 snaps. The Giants used seven, count 'em, seven offensive linemen throughout the course of the game to protect Jones. And this wasn't jumbo packages or anything fancy. It was coach Joe Judge doing what he said he would, use everyone who was active on game day.
Peart played 24 total snaps, subbing in at right and left tackle for Cam Fleming and Andrew Thomas, including being on the field late in the fourth quarter. Chad Slade even snuck in for three offensive plays at left guard for rookie Shane Lemieux.
The Giants are going to rotate linemen throughout the game, and have been now for several weeks. It means that, at times, they will have three rookies on the field together on the offensive line.