Eli Manning gets tackles on a run by Jaylon Smith at AT&T Stadium.

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Keidel: After Much Talk Of Improvement, Giants Look Just As Lost

Big Blue Heads To Houston Hoping To Avoid 0-3 Start

Jason Keidel
September 21, 2018 - 10:04 am
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It doesn't take an internship at NFL Films to realize the Giants have played some ugly football through two games. 

Eli Manning looks old, and his offense has been cold. Big Blue ranks 28th in rushing and 24th in passing. Only the Arizona Cardinals (six) and Buffalo Bills (23) have scored fewer points than the Giants (28). It's all part of an anemic narrative that has plagued Big Blue since well before this season. Consider that the Giants have yet to score over 30 points in a game since Tom Coughlin was their head coach (2015). Then consider that there have been 174 touchdowns so far this young NFL season, and the Giants have just two of them. 

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The revamped offensive line has not lived up to projections. Manning has been sacked eight times through two weeks, tied for the most through the first two games in his career. By contrast, the Giants quarterback was sacked 31 times over the entire 2017 season. Saquon Barkley has had one dazzling touchdown run, the team's only rushing TD so far this year. 

Their defense is better, but not by much. The G-Men are ranked 29th in run defense (137.5 yards allowed per game), have yet to recover a fumble, have forced only one turnover and are the only NFL club with just one sack. (Their pass defense, ranked second, is inflated because teams are having so much success on the ground.) It's also hard to win a game when you've never had a lead, which the Giants have yet to accomplish. 

Now at 0-2 after losing at Dallas last week, the Giants return to the Lone Star State to play the equally desperate -- and winless -- Houston Texans. Big Blue's leaky run defense will be tested by the NFL's best rushing club. Houston has averaged 157.5 yards per game on the ground, including an AFC-best 5.25 yards per carry.   

Texans QB Deshaun Watson, who electrified the NFL last year before blowing out his knee, hasn't been as dynamic so far in his sophomore season. But with running back Lamar Miller pounding the ball and Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins at wideout, the Giants' defense will have a full plate. And if the G-Men have found it tough thus far to protect their plodding quarterback, they now have to deal with a healthy J.J. Watt. 

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It's all woefully familiar for Giants fans, who have now suffered an 0-2 start for the fifth time in six years. While we can regurgitate stats all day, it's about winning, something the Giants have done just three times in their last 15 regular-season games. (Even the Cleveland Browns have a win this year!)

For just a moment, forget where or why the Giants stink after two games. Forget what you think needs to improve to beat the Texans. If the Giants don't already feel breathless desperation entering Week 3, this stat should light a gridiron fire. Remember what modern Giants patriarch Bill Parcells famously asserted: You are what your record says you are. And with one more loss on Sunday, Big Blue will likely write their epitaph before October. 

Since 1980, there have been 172 NFL teams to start 0-3, and only five have made the playoffs (less than 3 percent). And it hasn't happened at all in two decades, since the 1998 Buffalo Bills hurdled their first three losses to play in January. 

When it comes to the NFL, past is often prologue. The Giants don't have the talent or temerity to come back from Texas with an 0-3 record. Head coach Pat Shurmur was hired to be the fresh new face of the team. If they lose to the Texans, the only noticeable difference between Shurmur and his predecessor will be facial hair.  

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel​.