This Jets vs Giants has all the makings of a New York classic. MetLife Stadium will be lit Giants-blue as the “home team” G-Men (5-6) look to rebound from a crushing loss to the Redskins. Gang Green (6-5) find themselves in the middle of the playoff race.
Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) looks to hand the ball off during the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Dolphins 38-20. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Todd Bowles probably should’ve gone off on his troops a few weeks earlier. But after losing four of their last five games, he finally had enough of all the dropped passes, sloppy tackling, lack of fire and unsatisfactory performances.
Dumping former #1 pick linebacker Quinton Coples and replacing him with undrafted Indianapolis Colts’ practice squadder Josh Martin from that Ivy League gridiron powerhouse Columbia University was a real game changer. Everyone got the message loud and clear: If you don’t want it bad enough, you are no longer welcome in Florham Park.
On last week’s opening drive against the Dolphins, Bowles decided to go for it on fourth down at midfield. It was a gutsy move that failed, but he was confident that his defense — even playing without spiritual leader Darrelle Revis — would stomp the Fish. The rookie head coach — who ironically went 2-1 as Miami’s 2011 interim coach — was proved correct.
The Jets came to play. They may have finally discovered their mojo. The final score of 38-20 was a bit deceiving — the game was 35-7 in the 4th quarter. Miami’s $19-mil-per-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill saved his best for last, throwing a touchdown pass with like five seconds to go.
Here’s a few reasons to believe in the “road team” this week, as related through New York heavy metal gods, Anthrax.
Next: 3. Spreading The Disease
Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) reacts to the crowd in the second half of the Jets 38-20 victory over the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
3. Spreading The Disease
There were quite a few standout individual performances that merit attention.
Muhammad Wilkerson was dominant on the D-line, as was a ferocious Sheldon Richardson. Brandon Marshall lived up to his star billing (but what was up with interim-for-not-much-longer Miami coach Dan Campbell’s defensive scheme, pitting poor 5”10” Brent Grimes mano-o-mano all afternoon with the 6’4”-230-lb. receiver?). Marshall’s speedy receiving mate Devin Smith may have finally broken out after rookie injuries and indecision. Chris Ivory moved the pile with such ferocity that he will once again become a fantasy fave.
Ryan Fitzpatrick trimmed his Grizzly Adams beard and played his finest game as a Jet with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. It was the Harvard-educated veteran’s 100th NFL game. Calvin Pryor, “The Louisville Slugger,” laid out yet another opponent, cracking receiver Rishard Matthews‘ ribs harder than he cracked Josh McCown‘s head on the goal line in the opening game against Cleveland.
North Dakota State’s greatest cornerback Marcus Williams filled in strongly for Darrelle Revis with a key interception. Rookie linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin might just be becoming an NFL stud before our eyes. Not to put pressure on the kid, but a few of his edge pursuits last week felt down-right John Abraham-like.
Special team coach Bobby April, Jr.’s much-maligned special teams unit came to play. Randy Bullock has been making Jets fans forget about the injured kicker Nick Folk. Punter Ryan Quigley was consistently solid. Fair-catch-machine Jeremy Kerley broke the game open with a sparkling 58-yard punt return.
But the game also drove home one crucial point — the Jets really need Nick Mangold. There is no player more important to this team than the ten-year vet center, and when he’s too hurt to play, the offense can’t run the ball.
For the Jets, this MetLife showdown is a must-win, in that because of the particular teams the Jets have lost to, they lose out in most playoff tiebreakers. So the 6-5 team may need 10 wins to play beyond January in their final game in Buffalo.
Next: 2. Caught In A Mosh
Aug 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker (87) makes a catch for a first down against the New York Giants during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
2. Caught In A Mosh
Every year or two, there is a weak NFL division from which yields one somewhat-unworthy playoff team, and this year that would be the NFC East. The Eagles have basically quit on Chip Kelly. The Cowboys are done with Tony Romo re-injured and Matt Cassel under center. So the Redskins — a team that the Giants had owned, and who’ve yet to beat a wining team all season — will probably come out on top.
The G-Men really laid an egg this past Sunday in Washington, losing 20-14 in game where they were well-rested and prepared after a bye week, and with a win could’ve easily cruised into the playoffs. Simply put, these are not the Giants of old.
It’s not so much that the Giants didn’t show up to play, they simply don’t have the talent to back it up. Don’t blame the Giants’ grandfatherly coach Tom Coughlin for this mess — although you know the organization will.
Giants coach-in-waiting, offensive coordinator Bob MacAdoo hasn’t exactly shined. Like does his no-huddle game plan ever include any draw plays, or display any elements of that classic Giants’ power game? The G-Men have four at-best average running backs — Orleans Darkwa may emerge as the best of the lot — but nobody seems to get a chance to develop a rhythm.
The Giants, on top of having zero running game, have been mediocre at best on defense, a veteran bunch coached up under the heralded return of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. At FedEx Field, the Giants made Kirk Cousins look like Joe Montana, with all that time for him to throw the ball. The return of JPP has been inspirational but average at best. And you really worry that Big Blue’s injury-ravaged offensive line could get Eli Manning hurt one day.
The Giants are a classy organization who famously keep everything in-house, but general manager Jerry Reece has left the cupboards bare, and has questions to answer for with so many gaping holes in that organization’s roster.
The loss was a major setback to the Giants’ publicly stated belief that they had made great strides after their tough 27-26 home loss to the Patriots. A true barometer of Sunday’s Redskins game was that they were down 17-0 at the half. Eli threw three picks, but he could’ve easily had five or six. Then again, he’s won two Super Bowls.
Also, they’ve got the unbelievable Odell Beckham Jr. Revis, most likely out on Sunday due to the NFL’s concussion protocol program, will miss Beckham’s much-anticipated trip to Revis Island. Regardless, the Jets should be able to carve up the Giants’ defense if they follow the same blueprint that got them much success last week against the Dolphins.
Next: 1. Among The Living
Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets cornerback Darrin Walls (26) breaks up a pass intended for Miami Dolphins running back Damien Williams (34) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
1. Among The Living
This writer concurs with those NFL insiders who believe that the new Mike Maccagnan-Todd Bowles regime is a competent, professional breath of fresh air, and that the “Same Old Jets” mantra may finally be dead and buried. This “road game” will be a barometer of whether or not there is a “passing of the torch” from the dominant Giants, clearly on the decline, to the Jets, who have numerous reasons to be cheerful.
The previous time these two teams met during the regular season, on Christmas Eve afternoon 2011, Victor Cruz was last seen sprinting past washout 2010 #1 draft pick Kyle Wilson for the 13th-ever 99-yard TD in NFL history, and all of the way to a Super Bowl victory. Rex Ryan mouthed off all week before that game, and his Jets coaching tenure never recovered from that beatdown.
The Jets players seem to have finally bought into what coach Bowles has been preaching: playing error-free football for a full 60 minutes, focusing on professionalism and performance — and understanding that it’s truly an honor to wear the green-and-white. Any on-field effort not on par with Sunday’s Miami victory would be viewed as a profound disappointment within the organization.
But this “regular season Snoopy Bowl” is still very much a one-sided rivalry game, and one can never discount the legendary New York Giants in the Meadowlands, in a must-win for them to have any shot to make the NFC playoffs.
The Jets know what they’ve gotta do, too. It all should make for one very interesting afternoon. It’s time the Jets took the torch away from the Giants and proved they are indeed a team on the rise when it comes to which is the better team in the big apple.