The Giants and Jets share the New York area. They oppose each other for the loyalties and dollars of the same people. This creates a sense of competition between the two franchises. Loyalties to the two teams divide families and friends. The teams have also shared a home stadium since 1984.
The Giants have been a historically more successful. While the Jets have had a tortured history, the Giants are one of the most storied franchises in the sport. The Giants have been around since 1925 and for a long time were the only team in town. The Jets only arrived in 1960 so they have had less time to set roots in the area and win the hearts of fans. For over two decades, the Jets were actually the Giants' tenants and played their home games in a stadium named after the Giants. Because of these factors and others, the Giants are the more popular of the two teams through the area with the exception of Long Island, where the Jets' headquarters was located for decades.
Despite the common ties, the Jets and Giants lack some key elements to a heated rivalry. They do not compete directly against each other. They play in different conferences so they never battle for Playoff spots or division titles. They could only meet each other in the postseason in a Super Bowl. This has never happened. They only face each other in the regular season once every four years. They do meet in the preseason every year, usually in the third game. This is the most important preseason game. Most teams use it as a dress rehearsal and play their starters into the second half, but it is ultimately still a meaningless preseason game.
Because of these factors, it would be difficult to put the Giants as a rival for the Jets on the same level as the Patriots and the Dolphins. There are many Jets fans who do not view the Giants as a rival at all and vice versa. Numerous fans support both teams. Still, many fans hate the crosstown rivals as they have to deal with friends and family who gloat when one side does better than the other.
Some memorable moments:
1969: In the first meeting between the teams of any kind, Joe Namath throws for three touchdown passes during a preseason game at the Yale Bowl as the Jets rout the Giants 37-14.
1970: The teams meet in the regular season for the first time as the Giants overcome a 7-3 halftime deficit, pulling away to win 22-10.
1974: Joe Namath hits Emerson Boozer from 5 yards out in overtime as the Jets beat the Giants 26-20.
1984: The Jets become the Giants' tenants as they begin playing their home games at the Meadowlands in Giants Stadium.
1988: The Jets play the role of spoiler on the final day of the regular season. Despite having nothing to play for, the Jets knock the Giants out of the Playoffs as Ken O'Brien hits Al Toon for a 5 yard touchdown pass with 37 seconds to play. The Jets win 27-21.
2003: Coming off an AFC East title, the Jets have Super Bowl dreams, but they go up in smoke as quarterback Chad Pennington dislocates and breaks his wrist in the preseason contest against the Giants. Pennington misses the first six games of the regular season. The Jets stumble out of the gate with Vinny Testaverde at quarterback and never recover on their way to a 6-10 finish.
2010: The Jets and Giants open a new stadium, which both teams own equally. They meet each other in the first preseason game at what was then known as Meadowlands Stadium. The game is best remembered for Calvin Pace opening up a gash on Eli Manning's head on a hit after an aborted handoff. The Jets control play in the first half, but the Giants' backups dominate the Jets' backups in the second half. The Giants win 31-16 as undrafted rookie Victor Cruz catches three second half touchdowns.
2011: The Jets and the Giants meet Christmas Eve with both teams controlling their own Playoff destiny and only two games left in the regular season. A 99 yard touchdown catch and run by Victor Cruz turns the game around in the second quarter. The Giants win 29-15, aided by a pair of Mark Sanchez interceptions and Sanchez taking a safety late in the fourth quarter. This game launched the Giants to their fourth Super Bowl title as Big Blue would not lose again in the 2011 season.
The rivalry in focus:
This rivalry is really about the fans and competition off the field. To put it simply, the Giants have an enormous superiority complex when it comes to the Jets, and the Jets have an enormous inferiority complex when it comes to the Giants. The reasons for which are detailed above. The Giants have a long history of success. The Jets have a long history of failure. The Jets' were the Giants' tenants for a long time and played their home games in a stadium named after the Giants. Even though the teams are equal partners in the new stadium, there is still a nutty perception the stadium belongs to the Giants.
The dislike between the two teams has picked up since the Rex Ryan Era began. The Giants and their fans don't much like the big talking Ryan.
There is now a perception among Giants fans and the media that the Giants are a classy organization of winners that does everything the right way, and the Jets are a classless organization that has brought every bit of bad publicity it has received on itself. This doesn't really hold up to much scrutiny. Like the Giants, the Jets have many good people who do good works in the community. Like the Jets, the Giants talk a lot of trash. The Jets have had some recent success, while the Giants have had some disastrous recent collapses.
The main difference between the teams is the Giants have won two Super Bowls since 2007, while the Jets have fallen short during their big years. The Giants thus control the narrative. When you win championships, you are forgiven for some rough finishes, and you can talk trash. When you fall short, your flaws get magnified. Truth be told, the Giants' teams that won championships recently were not dominant teams. They were good teams that got hot at the right time and got some fortuitous bounces along the way. That doesn't matter, though. The name of the game is winning the Super Bowl, and it ultimately does not matter how you do it. The Giants have. The Jets haven't. Right or wrong, that dictates how the teams have been portrayed.
The Giants own the New York area. They have for a long time, and that will continue until the Jets sustain an extended run of greater success. At that point, kids growing up will naturally gravitate to the more successful team, and the Jets will pick up steam. It will eventually happen just by the law of averages. Then the Giants will be successful again and reassert their claim. Then the Jets will, and it will go back and forth in a cycle over the long run. That's the way it works.
There will always be the invisible rivalry between the team to win fans and favorable press. The Jets and Giants are more about these off field victories such as bragging rights. As far as on the field goes, there is still something lacking. These teams don't compete for the same prizes and barely ever play a game of meaning. Fans will just have to wait for 2015 and hope the game is as meaningful as the 2011 one was.