NFL

Can the Giants take their show on the road?

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In the span of seven days, the national perception of the New York Giants has changed dramatically.

No longer are the G-Men beneficiaries of a soft schedule; they’re a legitimate contender to win the NFC and reach another Super Bowl.

Bolstered by dominant defensive efforts in wins over Dallas and Detroit, the Giants posted a 7-1 home record this season. But can they take their show on the road?

They’ll have no choice come playoff time. By virtue of the Cowboys’ NFC East-clinching victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday night, the Giants can finish with no higher than the No. 5 seed.

The Giants kept Matthew Stafford and the high-powered Lions’ passing attack out of the end zone Sunday in a 17-6 win. Eli Manning tossed two touchdowns and did not turn the ball over.

Giants coach Ben McAdoo credited the MetLife Stadium crowd in assisting the defensive effort in his post-game press conference.

“They were loud today,” McAdoo said. “They got after them a little bit. … From a communication standpoint, it helps offensively and the noise helps on defense.”

The offense has been largely dormant away from home this fall, save for Manning’s three-touchdown, Week 1 effort in Dallas. Big Blue averages only 273 total yards per game on the road, compared to 356.8 in eight home games.

Manning’s completion percentage dips from 66.3 percent at home to 59.6 percent on the road, tossing nine touchdowns and taking nine sacks.

Sure, he’s not getting much help from the ground game. The Giants have rushed for only 25 first downs in those six games away from the Meadowlands.

Looking at postseason history, though, the Giants will also have plenty of faith in Manning. Seven of his eight career playoff wins have either been on the road or on a neutral site, including one win in Dallas and another pair in the bitter cold of Green Bay’s Lambeau Field.

There were positive signs from the Giants’ offense on Sunday. Manning orchestrated a brilliant opening drive – covering 10 plays and 75 yards – in which six skill players touched the football. Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins ran well enough to keep the Lions honest. And the Giants produced a pivotal drive in the fourth quarter to put the game effectively out of reach.

“We’re coming along. I think we’re right there. The breakout game is coming soon,” said wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who found the end zone for the 10th time in his last 10 games.

The Giants feel extremely confident, however, with the play of their defense. The unit has traveled well across time zones and continents in 2016.

New York stifled the Lions in three red-zone opportunities, forcing a pair of turnovers. The Giants lead the league with a 40 percent touchdown rate inside the 20.

Romeo Okwara stood out against the Cowboys filling in for the injured Jason Pierre-Paul with eight tackles and his first career sack. Yesterday, as Janoris “Call me Jackrabbit” Jenkins departed with a spine injury, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie moved back outside from the slot and turned in a strong performance along with rookie Eli Apple.

There’s finally, mercifully, some roster depth for the Giants defense after years of failed draft picks. Several 2015 starters (Uani’ Unga, Brandon Meriweather, J.T. Thomas, Jon Beason) did not even start the season on NFL rosters.

Even at 10-4 with wins in eight of their last nine games, the Giants still have work to do.

They’ll travel to Philadelphia on Thursday night to face the rival Eagles. It’s safe to throw out the records when those two squads lock horns. Should Big Blue fail to clinch a playoff spot in Week 16, a potential winner-take-all matchup with Washington looms


About Chris Boyle