The Giants and Jets will renew their rivalry at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. Even though there’s the “rivalry” aspect to it, both teams are playing for a lot more.
By Jeff Weisinger
This time around, however, the tides are very, very different.
The Giants enter Sunday’s matchup against the Jets coming off of an embarrassing loss at Washington last Sunday, losing the top spot in the NFC East in the process, while the Jets notched a key divisional win against Miami.
For the first time in a long time, the dormant Giants and Jets “rivalry” (if we can even call it that) will see the winner most likely make the playoffs while the loser will begin figuring out how to rebuild for a playoff run next year.
“This is the third time I’ve played ‘em, or maybe the fourth time,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning said to the media, referring to the Jets.” I don’t know what it is. It’s not all that often.
“A lot of these guys have never played ‘em at all. A lot of times it gets pumped up to make it a big game. This season being a little later in the year, it’s usually a big game because of the effect it can have on the seasons of both teams.”
But the most interesting part is how much both teams have resembled each other’s past selves this year. The Giants could’ve had one of the top records in the NFC had it not been for two poor clock management decisions in the first two weeks of the season, while the Jets have looked scrappy and somewhat solid, especially on the offensive side with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback after Geno Smith was sucker-punched to the bench during camp.
The Jets have made most of the plays they’ve had to make throughout the season while the Giants missed out on key opportunities to notch wins, or claw back in games. In short, the Jets have looked like those Giants teams than went on their improbable runs in 2007 and 2011, meaning 2015 could be the surprising year of the Jets, at least in the Big Apple. But no matter who you ask, both teams will tell you that they’re taking it one game at a time.
“They’re thinking about it, but they know you have to take it one game at a time,” Jets rookie head coach Todd Bowles said. “There’s a lot of football left to play and it’s good to be playing for something meaningful and have a chance to do something, but we’re day-to-day, one game at a time and they understand that.”
“It’s a big game for both teams and I think that’s how we look at it,” Manning added. “It’s probably not as big of a rivalry as you think, we only play every four years. A lot of these guys have never played them. I think sometimes it gets pumped up to make it a big game.”
Fans who were looking forward to seeing the Odell Beckham-Darrelle Revis matchup will have to wait another four years, if it even happens at this point. Revis is reportedly out for the Snoopy Bowl with a concussion, meaning that Antonio Cromartie should be covering Beckham Jr. throughout the game.
On the other side, the Giants offense is going to look to get on-track against a Jet secondary that’s one of the best in the league. Gang Green also boasts the No. 1 run defense in the league, allowing just 84.4 rushing yards per game. The Giants are 28th in rushing offense, meaning Manning will be throwing a lot against the Jets.
Eli isn’t afraid to throw it to Beckham: Odell saw 18 targets last week against Washington.
“We expect it,” Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said. “Sometimes we put him where we know he’s going to get doubled, so we know what we’ve got on the other side.” The bigger question in the Giants passing attack will be how Rueben Randle performs on Sunday.
It will also be interesting to see how the inconsistent Giants defense does against a surprising Jets offense. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been very solid for the Jets, already throwing 20 touchdowns, and building a good connection with Brandon Marshall. The Giants secondary could have problems covering the Jets receivers if their front-seven doesn’t get any pressure on Fitzpatrick.
With the playoffs on the line, both the Giants and Jets are playing for their immediate future. Their rivalry that gets renewed every four years will take to a whole new level on Sunday. Although it’s a Giants home game, there should be close to an even amount of Giants and Jets fan in the stands at MetLife, creating one of the more memorable atmospheres since the stadium opened.
Win and stay in the hunt, lose and tell the playoffs one word: “fuhgedaboutit!”