In the UK a game between two teams based in the same town is known as the local ‘derby’. Unlike in the NFL where currently New York is the only dual team city, English soccer sees these types of games such as on Manchester United Vs City on a regular basis. They garner a lot of hype in the media and passion amongst fans, which often leads to a huge police presence to physically keep fans apart. It got me thinking about the Jets / Giants rivalry ahead of their first regular season meeting since 2011 this Sunday. Is the rivalry a big deal, or is there much more at stake in this game than local pride?
As far as New York sporting rivalries go this one has in the past had far less on field significance than others, mainly because the teams only meet every four years (in the regular season) and are from opposite conferences of the league. Historically, of the 12 times the teams have played, the first time both were on the way to the playoffs was in 1981. Even then, the game was in the middle of the season and didn’t appear to have as much on the line. A Jets win in the last game of 1988 season (combined with wins from other teams) kept the Giants out of the playoffs but this is the limit. Even the 2011 Giants win was only part of their road to the Superbowl; not a deciding factor. Todd Bowles clearly doesn’t think much of the rivalry either now or in the past saying “I don’t think there was a rivalry back then, or if there was, I don’t remember.”
In that sense, the two teams are not direct rivals beyond the fact they share a town and a stadium, although this leads to an understandable mutual dislike despite the relatively minimal impact on their performances. To the fans this includes the frustration from years of having to play in a stadium named after another team. It also extends to to problematic front office exchanges, such as Woody’s distaste at the Giants getting to play the first home game at the new stadium in 2010. The players weigh in too with Plaxico Burress, as an ex Superbowl winning Giant playing for the Jets saying of the match up in 2011 “This is what New York is all about” . Apparently, Nick Mangold has this week been advising Ryan Fitzpatrick on what to expect and there has been “plenty of chatter in the community,” about the game. Fans on social media approach a Giants game with similar vigour as a divisional matchup and there is clearly no love lost between the Green and Blue sides of the Big Apple. The media too have feasted on this rivalry; two teams who share a stadium and a degree of past animosity (even if it is mainly off field), what’s not to like?
However this time, the game does have great significance to both teams far beyond the mutual dislike, as they both find themselves in a must win situation in order to salvage any hope from the season. The momentum seems to be with the Jets, who found some of the flow and spark seen in the first few games of the year against the Dolphins last week, while the Giants are languishing at 5-6 after consecutive losses. Inconsistency has dogged both teams and the result will depend on whether their best or worst selves appear on Sunday. The Jets are patently clear about the vital nature of this game and are shrugging off the rivalry hype – this is a must win game that just happens to be against a local rival. “I know it’s a big New York matchup, but I don’t think that’s as important to us as focusing on ourselves and taking what we did well in this game into the next,” Eric Decker said. ‘Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of hype around this game and who’s going to capture New York, Our goal is to get into that AFC picture in the playoffs.”
On Sunday the local derby will lead to great atmosphere in the stadium but far more important than the opponent is the Jets playing well enough to get the win. If we do, we go into week fourteen 7-5 and still in the hunt for a wildcard spot. If we don’t, we will join the huge melting pot of .500 or close teams and realistically playoffs chances are gone. In the 2015 battle of New York, the Jets HAVE to win; snatching the New York bragging rights will just make victory that little bit sweeter.
Photo Credit: SeatGeek.com