So here is the inquiry of the day:
When was the last time the Giants had to worry about a “trap” game?
That isn’t a trick question, although it could be, because you could argue that the Giants were involved in dozens of “trap” games the last five years because … well, they were the trap. Often. When you’re a bad team you carry the potential for a trap game around with you in your valise. You’re the other part of the equation in a “trap” game.
Now, you could also argue their game last week with the Texans could be classified as a trap game, but was it really? Yes, Houston is abysmal and, yes, the Giants were 6-2 going against a 1-5-1 team. But the Giants were also coming off their first genuinely bad performance of the season, against the Seahawks in Seattle. They were also coming off a bye week, meaning they had 14 days to stew about that bad performance.
(And 14 days no doubt, during which head coach Brian Daboll drilled into their heads — subtly or bluntly, probably both — the dangers of trap games.)
But Sunday, make no mistake about it, looms as a trap game for the Giants. The Lions will be in town, and while they haven’t been very good this year (they’re 3-6) they have won two games in a row, at home to the Packers and at the Bears. They’ve thrown some scares into the Eagles, Vikings, Seahawks and Dolphins. They have a quarterback, Jared Goff, who about 15 minutes ago was considered a can’t-miss star on the come.
And the Giants are 7-2, which is the second-best record in the NFC. They harbor genuine playoff ambitions, and they have the teeth of their schedule coming up as soon as they get past this Lions game at MetLife Stadium, beginning with the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.
It is essentially the definition of a “trap” game.
“I’m sure there will be quite a bit of adversity throughout this game like there normally is,” Daboll said Friday. “This is a team that takes the ball away and can score a lot of points in a hurry.”
It is also, of course, a team the Giants ought to beat, especially at home, especially in presumably foul weather against a team that plays its home games in a climate-controlled indoor stadium. It is a game that would give the Giants eight wins already, providing wiggle room for a schedule that still includes five-sixths of their division games and a looming critical date at Minnesota.
“There’re so many games to be played and it’s good to be 7-2, but again it will humble you really quick when you start worrying about the wrong things or thinking about the wrong things to me in this business,” Daboll said.
Which brings us back to the original question:
When was the last time the Giants had to worry about a “trap” game? Well, obviously, there were no such predicaments from 2017 through the beginning part of this year, when the narrative around the team began to officially shift. So it’s best to go back to 2016, which was the last time the Giants made the playoffs, the last time they weren’t a designated Homecoming Game opponent.
And there it is: Nov. 27, 2016.
The Giants were 7-3, riding a five-game winning streak. They traveled to Cleveland to take on the Browns, who were 0-11, on the way to 1-15, right in the middle of a stretch in which they went 1-31 across two entire football seasons.
And the Giants looked like they were trapped in a trap game. They punted the first four times they got the ball before finally snapping to after a fumble recovery and the first of three Eli Manning touchdown passes, that one to Dwayne Harris. The Browns moved the ball, but never truly threatened the Giants after that. It ended Giants 27, Browns 13.
These Lions are better than those Browns were, but the stakes are every bit as high for the Giants. Win, get to 8-2, build a clearer vision of what you can do across the season’s final seven weeks. Get caught in a trap? Well …
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