EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants are 5-5, completely imperfect, often their own worst enemy, unable to finish, occasionally explosive offensively, leaders by a game in the NFC East and holding tight to the belief that their best football is ahead of them.
Their season has included wild finishes, edge-of-your-seat games and outrageous mood swings.
How crazy has it been?
And they won in the division race during their Week 11 bye when Jameis Winston led Tampa Bay to a win in Philadelphia and Cam Newton led Carolina to a win in Charlotte.
Despite four blown fourth-quarter leads, a (formerly) anemic pass rush, the fact that three of their four highest-salaried players missed the first eight games (and two, Victor Cruz and Will Beatty, won't play at all in 2015), and the inability of their defense to get a stop and their offense to run out the clock when it has mattered most, it's all there for them.
They should be thankful for that, too.
As Tom Coughlin said: "We are relevant. Now we've got to do something about it. Finish. That's the word we keep using. We've got to finish."
Coughlin has used the adjective "relevant" several times this season. He wants his players to believe, to know they are in the hunt, after back-to-back seasons when the Giants were essentially out of contention by Halloween.
It should be noted that the consequences in East Rutherford of losing out on the playoffs could be dire; co-owner John Mara has made clear that postseason play is a mandate in 2015. The Giants haven't advanced to the playoffs since 2011, when they won that second Lombardi Trophy under Coughlin.
The Giants, however, believe their best is yet to come. They are getting healthier; cornerback Prince Amukamara is expected to return Sunday after missing five games with a partially torn pectoral. And Jason Pierre-Paul, whose return in Week 9 after the July 4 fireworks accident that led to his right index finger being amputated, has instantly lifted the defense and inspired his teammates.
"Our defense is headed in the right direction," Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. "Our team is, period."
Since returning, Pierre-Paul has mostly worn a glove that resembles an oven mitt on his right hand. It's an adjustment.
"Everything is new to me," he said. "[I am] still learning every day, the [defensive] system, and how to use my hand."
He added: "The good thing about it is that I can still play football."
He is thankful, to say the least.
In the most recent twist in this Giants season, Hakeem Nicks has returned -- he was New York's first-round pick in 2009 and spent five years with the team -- taking Cruz's roster spot. Nicks will wear a Giants uniform Sunday against the Redskins for the first time in precisely 23 months, since Dec. 29, 2013, when he caught two passes for 50 yards in a 20-6 victory over Washington.
Nicks is taking a cram course in Ben McAdoo's offense, but has five years of familiarity with Eli Manning, from whom he has caught more passes (306) for more yards (4,538) than any other receiver.
"Glad to be back in this position again, playing with Eli again," Nicks said. "I look forward to everything that is about to come."
How much does the 27-year-old Nicks have left? Who knows?
"Confidence level," he said. "It's a new season, we got a six-game schedule. I've seen this before, and we're right where we need to be in this division."