Do the New York Giants want to remain the Washington Generals? Or do they want to become gladiators?

For the past 10 years or so, the once-proud Giants have been the punching bags of the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. Their respective fan bases have correctly pencilled in two automatic wins, their annual highlight videos peppered with big offensive and defensive plays against Big Blue. And with respect to Philadelphia, the Giants have proven to be the “get right” opponent when their season has occasionally been on the brink. The 10-4 Eagles may have lost three games in a row, but they remain tied for first place in the NFC East and are counting on two wins against the Giants to get them over the finish line.

The Washington Generals are supposed to lose every time they play the Harlem Globetrotters. It’s not even supposed to be close, with everyone laughing at the Generals along the way. In the 2000 films Gladiator, a ragtag group of slaves was supposed to serve the same purpose in the Coliseum for the Roman Emperor Commodus in a re-enactment of the Battle of Carthage. The slaves were supposed to die, to be the punching bags against opponents that were to slaughter them. In the film, the opposite occurred.

No one expects the Giants, playing with a third-string undrafted rookie quarterback, to beat the Eagles in Philadelphia on Christmas Day. But we want to see some fight. We’re tired of being humiliated by two teams in our own division. Giants’ lore is filled with bad teams playing their hearts out against top teams. But in the 100-year history of the team, those kind of games have been noticeably absent in the past decade. We don’t expect you to be victorious, but we expect you to give us a game, not something we turn off at halftime.

Entertain us. Be gladiators. For once.


  • RB Matt Breida (hamstring – probable)
  • RB Gary Brightwell (hamstring – questionable)
  • TE Darren Waller (hamstring – probable)
  • TE Lawrence Cager (groin – questionable)
  • OG Justin Pugh (calf/neck – probable)
  • RT Evan Neal (ankle – out)
  • OT Matt Peart (shoulder – probable)
  • DL Dexter Lawrence (hamstring – questionable)
  • DL A’Shawn Robinson (back – questionable)
  • DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches (knee – out)
  • ILB Carter Coughlin (neck – probable)
  • S Xavier McKinney (illness – probable)
  • P Jamie Gillan (groin – probable)

Pundits, media, and fans fall for the same trap every year. How a team plays at the beginning and middle of a season does not guarantee the same in the all-important months of December and January. Hot teams cool down. Mediocre teams start to heat up. We see it every year. At the end of November, the Eagles were 10-1 and widely considered an automatic participant in the conference championship game. Three losses in a row has shaken their confidence and the confidence others had in them only a few weeks ago. At the heart of their struggles has been a defense that has allowed 341 points this year, three more than the New York Giants. After allowing 109 points in three straight games (one win and two losses), the Eagles replaced defensive coordinator Sean Desai with Matt Patricia. The Eagles gave up fewer points (20) in their last game, but still lost.

So the Giants should have an easier time of it against Philadelphia? Not so fast. The 109 points were against three of the better offenses in the NFL – Bills, 49ers, and Cowboys. Meanwhile, after a 24-point “explosion” against the Packers, the Giants are back to having problems scoring 7 points per game. Indeed, through 14 games, the Giants only have 189 points (which includes two defensive touchdowns and field goals set up by the defense). The Giants are battling the Patriots for worst-scoring team in the NFL.

It’s no coincidence that the Giants’ offensive productivity seems intimately tied to the performance of the offensive line. When the OL plays better, everyone on offense looks better. When the OL falls apart, the offense looks putrid. The latter happened against the Saints and the team only managed six points. Say what you want about Philadelphia, but their defensive line has abused the Giants for a decade. And it’s reason #1 why Philadelphia is 25-7 against New York since 2008. Every preview I’ve written about these two teams for 10 years has said the same thing.

The Giants don’t have a quarterback. However, until this franchise successfully addresses the offensive line, nothing much is going to change. Spending high draft picks and big free agent money means nothing if you don’t bring in actual good players who you can coach up properly.

In last week’s preview, I wrote “The problem with turnovers is that you can’t count on them. They come and go, being at the whim of the football gods. My point here is we will have to see how the defense performs when the turnovers cease.” Well, we found out and the results were not pretty. After holding New Orleans to seven points in the first half, the defense was a significant factor in the game getting out of hand by allowing three straight scoring drives to start the second half. What made this worse was this was against an opponent who was missing their top wide receiver and starting right tackle. The inconsistent Derek Carr finished with a 134.8 quarterback rating, throwing only five incompletions.

My point here is that the quality defensive performances are being offset against bad ones. Regardless of what Wink Martindale says publicly, the defense doesn’t seem to be trending upwards. It’s still up and down, up and down. Like much of the entire coaching staff, Martindale has lost a lot of his luster this season. And he is 0-4 against the Cowboys and 0-3 against the Eagles since last year, with two more anticipated losses to Philadelphia on the horizon. 0-9 against your two top rivals?!

As much as Philadelphia’s defense has been under fire, their offense has slowed noticeably in December as well. Through 11 games, the Eagles were averaging 28 points per game. That’s winning football. During the 3-game losing streak, they have averaged 16 points per game. That’s losing football. (Giants average 13 points per game).

So the challenge here for Wink and his defensive players is can they play on par with the 49ers, Cowboys, and Seahawks, and keep the Eagles under 20 points? Or will the defense come up small against a better opponent once again? Yeah, I get it, New York’s offense is not helping. But sometimes you have to rise the occasion and make up for the other side of the ball. Jalen Hurts has not been playing at an MVP level in recent weeks. Stop the run and you have a chance.

The fly in the ointment is the injury situation on the defensive line. The top three linemen, Dexter Lawrence, A’Shawn Robinson, and Rakeem Nunez-Roches are all ailing. This is not a good opponent to be missing guys up front against.

Three place kickers on IR? LOL.

“Moral victories are for losers.” Probably. But in my mind, there is a big difference between the Giants losing this game 40-6 and 20-13. I can more easily accept the latter. But another one-sided drubbing by a divisional opponent is a really tough pill to swallow. The coaching staff is not inspiring right now. They look and sound defeated. I hope their public face is not the same behind closed doors.

In a nutshell, I’m not sure where this team is headed. The way the team lost to the Saints didn’t sit well with me. I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and that’s troubling.