clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Keys to Game 15: Jets vs. Giants

Getty Images

In a twist of fate worthy of the Big Apple stage, the Week 16 match up between the (8-6) New York Jets and the (7-7) New York Giants will likely decide the playoff fate of each team. Both teams still control their own destinies, but a loss this weekend would cripple either team's postseason aspirations. The implications of this game are undeniable, and they are further highlighted by the all-important New York bragging rights that are at stake. For the key matchups and players, you're going to have to jump!

For both New York teams, this game can be summed up by one phrase: "do or die". Despite a second-half collapse that has become typical in recent seasons, the Giants are still in the playoff hunt. Defeating the Jets this week would set up a winner-takes-all showdown with the Cowboys, a game that would decide the NFC East. The Jets' playoff picture is even more promising, as they held on to the second wild card spot even after their embarrassing debacle against the Eagles. However, a loss would shatter either team's playoff hopes. Both teams have been disappointing this season, but the Jets come into the game as the three-point favorites. That seems to be a fair assessment, as the G-Men are a very favorable match up for the Jets. The majority of Gang Green's struggles on defense have come against athletic tight ends, a position that the Giants are extremely thin at (all three of their tight ends are injured, and starter Jake Ballard has already been ruled out for this game). On offense, many of the Jets' problems can be traced back to RT Wayne Hunter, who will be going up against a hobbled Justin Tuck. This match up leads into the first key...
  • Wayne Hunter vs. Justin Tuck: On the surface, this is a nightmare match-up for Hunter. Justin Tuck had 11.5 sacks last season and has long been one of the best pass rushers in the league, but he has been dealing with injuries all year long (missing 4 games) and has struggled in the games that he has participated in. Tuck's 3 sacks would be his lowest total since 2006, but going up against Wayne Hunter is a sure fire way to pad that statistic. Hunter has given up 8.5 sacks this season (according to, and has generally found ways of endangering Mark Sanchez' life at least once during almost every game. If Tuck overpowers Hunter early on, it will be crucial for the Jets' coaching staff to react quickly and implement the jumbo package, with Vladimir Ducasse as the extra tight end. This match up has the potential to turn the tide of the game, so it will be critical for the Jets to keep Justin Tuck in check for the entire sixty minutes.
  • Mark Sanchez vs. Corey Webster: Despite featuring various playmakers, the Giants' defense is among the worst in the league. Specifically, their secondary has allowed 25 passing touchdowns (4th most in the NFL), 3605 passing yards (4th most in the NFL), and a passer rating of 88.4 (7th highest in the NFL). The Giants' pass rush is above average (their 37 sacks are 10th in the league), but it is mostly generated by Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora, who account for 55% of that. With Umenyiora sidelined for the fourth straight game this weekend, the Jets can focus their attention on stopping Jason Pierre-Paul. If Sanchez has time to throw, he will be able to pick apart the Giants' secondary. One statistic to note: although their secondary has played terribly, the Giants have intercepted 17 passes (6th most in the league). Corey Webster leads the team with 5 picks, so this will be a match up worth monitoring.
  • Shonn Greene: Big Blue's pass defense has been notoriously poor, but their run defense has been below average as well. The Giants give up 4.5 yards per carry (10th worst in the NFL), and Shonn Greene has been running well in recent games. In the Jets' last 4 games, Greene has averaged 92 yards per game with an average of 4.8 yards per carry. If Sanchez cannot get going early, it will once again be up to Shonn Greene to carry the Jets on offense.
  • Eli Manning: Much has been said about Eli Manning's improvement this season, as he is on pace to throw for 4985 yards, just 99 yards shy of Dan Marino's single season record. It is impossible to deny Eli's success, but his improvement has been slightly overstated. He had a very similar year two seasons ago (he even had a higher passer rating then, albeit with less yards), so I believe that any recognition that Eli is now receiving is a few years late. With that being said, he has not yet matched up with a cornerback duo on the level of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. The Giants' running game is horrific (32nd in the NFL, with 3.4 YPC), so the Jets will be free to dedicate their attention to Eli. Manning is the Giants' best player, so stifling him will be key for the Jets if they hope to emerge victorious.
  • Aaron Maybin vs. Kareem McKenzie: The Giants do a great job of protecting Manning (he's only been sacked 24 times, 6th least in the league), but the Jets can throw him off his rhythm if they manage to generate a pass rush. Kareem McKenzie has been very inconsistent this season, and has given up 5.5 sacks. Aaron Maybin has been fantastic in rushing the passer this season, so I expect him to wreak havoc off the edge against McKenzie. Giving Eli time to make his reads is dangerous, so this matchup will go a long way in determining the outcome of the game.
Player(s) to Watch: Many of the Jets are regarded as brash and cocky, but it is the Giants that seem to have a serious case of foot-in-mouth this week:
When asked about Darrelle Revis:

Mario Manningham: "I'm not about to give all their corners credit because I feel like their defensive scheme is what makes them good in man coverage because they have to play it because of how their scheme is. Have to play a lot of man because of how they run their defense...It's just quarterbacks get too scared to throw it his way, I feel like."

Victor Cruz: "Yeah, teams aren't really scared anymore. He's had to earn his money this year and teams aren't really backing down. I feel like we're going to do the same thing. We're going to go out until he physically stops us and we're going to spread the ball around."

-per Mike Garafolo, The Star-Ledger

Darrelle Revis has to be licking his chops after seeing these quotes. If Eli decides to listen to his two "brainy" receivers, Revis will make him pay. A big game could be in store for Revis, should the Giants test him. Another player to watch is Plaxico Burress. The former Giant isn't one to shy away from a microphone:
"I definitely want to get in the end zone once, twice, maybe three or four times. I'm going to go out and try to play lights-out football...Somebody's going to wake up with a bittersweet Christmas, and it's not going to be me.''
-Plaxico Burress
To their credit, the Giants all seem to respect Plaxico as a player. A supremely motivated Plaxico can deliver in a big way, especially against a shoddy secondary. Watch for Plaxico to have a dynamic game against his former team.

Prediction: After the beating that Gang Green took in Philadelphia, it seems foolish to predict a Jets victory. However, the Giants are really a perfect matchup for Gang Green. Their offense is very one dimensional, relying very heavily on their receivers to make plays. Against one of the best secondaries in the league, those receivers will have a difficult time. Mark Sanchez will throw for 250 and 2 TDs, and Shonn Greene will chip in 80 yards and a score. Eli puts up 300 yards, but comes up just short in the end.

Jets: 24
Giants: 17