When you’re fighting for a divisional title at 7-7, there is nothing to brag about. When you’re a 8-6 club hanging onto a wildcard berth by a thread after guaranteeing Super Bowl appearances, there is no need for boasting either. The Jets host the Giants Saturday in a stadium both call home, but the only real award awaiting the winner may be life beyond the final week of the regular season.
The Jets have been second class citizens throughout their fifty year history, albeit aside from Joe Namath’s miracle and a few Bill Parcells years sprinkled in. This until Rex Ryan came to town. Loud and brash and proclaiming a take over.
Over his first two seasons, the Jets HAVE arguably been better. Just ask Rex if you need proof. He’ll tell you that it is true, due to the club’s exciting and improbable late season road runs to the AFC Championship Game. This as the Giants slipped from their 2007 Super Bowl champion pedestal.
Gang Green’s newfound perch as one of the best in the AFC, a date with HBO Hard Knocks, and a plethora of nationally televised night games, came with even more public reminders from their coach that New York was now a Jets town. Ryan’s constant bravado and comments aimed at Big Blue, has inflamed the emotions of alot of Giants fans. Many of whom now consider the Jets an enemy on par with the hated Eagles and Cowboys.
The heat was turned up even more this past summer when volatile Giants RB Brandon Jacobs and Jets rookie Muhammad Wilkerson got tossed for fighting during a preseason game. A scrum that was symbolic of two teams who were truly battling for turf.
Both teams and fan bases have had the Christmas Eve day match-up circled on their calendar since the 2011 NFL schedule was made available.. Many feeling that proof as to who owned New York would finally be settled on the field. Not in the press, or some fictitious game played by backups during the second half.
Only days ago, this match-up had different implications. The Giants had come off of a huge comeback win over Dallas. The Jets were riding a three game win streak that propelled them from also rans to owners of the sixth wild-card spot.
After two putrid losses by both on Sunday though, the landscape has changed. No longer is this battle about which team can gain serious steam towards the playoffs. Now the “Jets vs Giants” is about who can fight to see another day.
A Giants loss coupled with a Cowboys win on Saturday against the Eagles, will send Big Blue home. A Jets loss won’t eliminate them, but it may damage them severely. A win is key but guarantees nothing either. Such is the fate for a team that relinquished total control after getting steamrolled in “The City of Brotherly Love” last Sunday.
This week, the fans, the media and the players on both teams will build this game into seismic proportions. Ryan wasted no time doing his share on Monday, with proclamations that the Jets are better. His chatter may be a ploy to kick some swagger back into a team that plays less fierce when it acts cordially during the week.
This match-up is in part, about being the king of New York, Ryan and the Jets winning the prize of “being better” without a ticket to the big dance though, will not be enough for a team whose not so secret goal was making a push for Indy in February. The sight of the upcoming Super Bowl.
Talk aside, “Jets vs Giants” is about survival. Of keeping the true goal of making the playoffs for a shot at the Vince Lombardi Trophy, alive. Right now, both New York football teams are in each other’s way in terms of reaching that goal. THAT’s what makes this latest round in the gridiron “Battle for New York” so crucial. No matter how much Ryan has ranted about the Jets overtaking the Giants since he first got here.