Bill Parcells was correct when he said “you are what your record says you are.” In all sports, the champion is decided by who wins the tournament, and the seeding is determined by victories leading up to it.
Last season, the records of the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings said they were playoff teams. However, what those records can’t say, and what their performance did, was that both teams were unlikely to duplicate or exceed those regular season results in 2023.
I don’t believe that most people who live in Minnesota believed that the Vikings were going to win 13 games again this season. During one of their victories last year, they had to come back from a 33-point deficit to defeat the Jeff Saturday coached Indianapolis Colts in overtime. The non-Jets people in the tristate area should not have expected a double-down from the Giants. Brian Daboll’s squad won a total of three games from Nov. 13-Jan. 8 last season, and wheezed into the playoffs with fewer than 10 wins.
In Week 1 this year, the Vikings opened their 2023 season at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Baker Mayfield started for Bucs. He played well, but not spectacularly, completing 21 of 34 for 173 yards and two touchdowns. Mayfield is on his fourth team in three seasons. The Vikings’ Kirk Cousins has thrown for 4,000-plus yards and 30 or more touchdowns three times in his career. He fumbled the ball on consecutive drives in the first quarter Sunday and the Vikings only scored 17 points.
While the Vikings lost to a team whose over/under for wins was set at 6.5, the Giants went up against a juggernaut and got plunked, thumped, and chumped on national television. I supposed it could have been worse. The Dallas Cowboys could have beaten them ,50-0. Instead, they won the game, 40-0, at a rainy MetLife Stadium. At no point were the Giants a match, because they were not capable of keeping Cowboys defenders away from Daniel Jones.
Both of these teams were prime regression candidates heading into the season. In June, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell laid out the ways in which the regular season success from the Vikings and Giants would likely not be duplicated in 2023. He went through how consistent victories in one-score games and fourth-quarter comebacks cannot be relied upon in consecutive seasons.
Of course, he’s right. My only addition to Barnwell’s analysis is that both the Giants and Vikings looked almost every week last season like teams that got lucky. Nothing about their performances screamed dominance.
The Giants organization said that they aren’t completely sold on Daniel Jones’ 2022 improvement with the contract that he signed. Sure, he gets $82 million guaranteed, but they can cut him after 2024 and only absorb $22 million in dead money, $11 million after 2025. Jalen Hurts also signed a contract extension this past season with the Eagles after an impressive 2022 season that followed some low points the year before. His cap hit doesn’t get under $44 million until after 2027.
While Jones does not have A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, he still played in an offense that attempted to hide his shortcomings. The Giants ran so much naked bootleg that there was no way their playsheet could have met broadcast standards. It tush-pushed them into the playoffs last season, but they were shellacked by the Philadelphia Eagles in the Divisional Round was clear evidence that they weren’t ready.
However, this team with no No. 1 wide receiver and a starting quarterback using half of the field most of the time, still knocked off the Vikings during a wild-card game in Minneapolis. Cousins didn’t turn the ball over once, threw only six incomplete passes, and they still lost. The Vikings defense gave up 301 passing yards to Jones, and also 78 yards on the ground. He went 2019 regular-season Lamar Jackson on them, while Justin Jefferson averaged 6.7 yards per catch, and totaled 47 receiving yards on the day.
Most NFL seasons there is great turnover in teams that make the playoffs, and only homer goggles could keep someone from not seriously considering the Vikings and Giants will not be participants in the postseason come January. Then they both proceed to lay eggs in Week 1, although the nose-burning smell from the Giants’ stretched all the way to Canada.
Those bad Week 1 losses are the blanket being laid out for a bad picnic. The Giants and Vikings will have better moments, but there is no way that either team improves upon last season.