LONDON — Professional validation can come anywhere. Even 3,466 miles away from where you normally work.
The Giants traveled far from their MetLife Stadium football home, not in search of confirmation that they are truly a changed franchise, but also not running away from gaining that distinction. They are the road team Sunday against the Packers, nowhere near Green Bay. These two storied NFL teams, so popular in various United States locations other than Wisconsin and the New York/New Jersey area, will take to an international stage as they square off in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with matching 3-1 records.
This is the first time since the NFL began playing these overseas games — the Giants were in the first one, beating the Dolphins during the 2007 season at Wembley Stadium — that the two teams arrive on foreign soil with winning records. That is no surprise with the annually successful Packers. The Giants, four games into Brian Daboll’s first season as a head coach, are one of the league’s biggest turnaround stories so far — beating the Titans, Panthers and Bears and losing only to the Cowboys.
What comes next is quite different. Naysayers can dismiss the Giants based on the teams they have defeated. If they are able to upset Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, the Giants will return home hearing praises for how they handled their business in England.
“I think that’s every week to prove that we are for real,’’ defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence said. “If we lose the other games that we won, it’s like, ‘Who are the Giants?’ You know what I mean? Every game is important. Every game is big. This is the next game so it’s going to be a big game for us, and we are going to treat it as such. We are going to keep fighting, we are going to keep competing and we are going to keep being there for each other.’’
And if they win?
“I definitely think you earn some respect, for sure,’’ Lawrence said. “You’re going against a guy like Aaron Rodgers. That’s another challenge for us.’’
This will be another hurdle for a Giants team few anticipated would be able to get off the ground. The Packers are the last team in the NFL to play a game overseas, but they are accustomed to the spotlight. They have a huge following, as do the Giants. They have been alerted as to what to expect from the crowd of around 63,000 when it comes to team loyalty. This is a Packers home game, far removed from historic Lambeau Field, but there will be plenty of green and plenty of blue — and also plenty of other colors, as the makeup of the fans in these international games tend to be a mixture of all sorts of jerseys and rooting interests.
Daboll, as an NFL assistant, previously has been involved in overseas games and told his players the vibe can be likened to big events — college playoff or bowl games or the Super Bowl — at which there is no true home team and noise is commonplace any time anyone has the ball.
“I expect the stadium to be rocking,’’ safety Xavier McKinney said.
“I’m excited,’’ quarterback Daniel Jones said. “We’ve heard a lot about the atmosphere, the energy. Playing in front of a somewhat neutral crowd where there’s people cheering a lot throughout the game, it’ll be fun to be in that atmosphere and see it.’’
Jones will start, having overcome the sprained left ankle that sent him to the sideline during the 20-12 victory over the Bears last week. It was important for him to miss no more time, to miss not one more snap.
“We’ve got a lot of tough guys on the team,’’ Jones said. “Tough group. I think a lot of guys throughout the year get banged up and dealing with little things here and there, and everyone’s trying to be out there. So, I’m no different.’’
Jones is at the helm of an offense averaging just 19 points a game. The Packers have actually scored one fewer point (75) in four games than the Giants, an unusual offensive malaise with Rodgers fully healthy. An eruption is always possible, though, when a player as gifted as Rodgers is on the scene.
Asked if Rodgers has any weakness, McKinney said: “I haven’t seen one. Hopefully we’ll try some things out.’’
If enough things go well and the Giants find a way to win, they will return home from a great distance away, much closer to becoming the team they want to be.