The quadrennial battle for New York has returned and it's anyone's guess as to what will happen. It seems like every time these two teams meet, something crazy happens. From a Jets-career-ending injury to Mark Sanchez in the preseason to Victor Cruz's 99 yard career-making touchdown in the regular season, these matchups always manage to deliver some serious twists and turns. Fun Fact: the last two winners of this contest went on to win the Superbowl. Less Fun Fact: it was the Giants.
Where We Are
The Jets are not as complicated team as many seem to believe. The Jets are a mediocre team that can beat bad teams and will get beaten by average or good teams. The Jets have beaten the Browns, Colts, Dolphins (x2), Redskins, and Jaguars. The Colts are the only team on that list that isn't flat out terrible. The Jets have lost to the Eagles, Patriots, Raiders, Bills, and Texans. Apart from the Patriots, all of those teams are around average. It's pretty depressing to think that the teams that have beaten the Jets are 25-25 collectively against other teams. And that's including the 10-1 Patriots. The fact of the matter is that the Jets are in the playoff hunt because they have arguably the easiest schedule in the NFL and there 3 elite AFC teams (Patriots, Broncos, Bengals) and then just everybody else. The Jets need to win the majority of their remaining games for a playoff spot (especially with New England coming to town) and the Giants are not a good team. The Jets have no excuse for losing this game, and there's a decent chance a loss here could knock the Jets out of the race come Christmas.
Where They Are
The Giants are in a similar boat. The Giants may be sitting at 5-6, but that leaves them tied for first place in a division that has been simply hard to watch this season. The Giants have been legitimately inconsistent this year, losing to both good and bad teams while playing some of their best football against equally good and bad teams. Tied with the 5-6 Redskins for first place, you'd think that the Giants are actually in a pretty good position to win the division. You'd be wrong. The Redskins do not play a single team with a .500 or better record and their remaining opponents have a combined 20-35 record. Their 6 losses came at the hands of Carolina (11-0), New England (10-1), Atlanta (6-5), Tampa Bay (5-6) and both New York teams. Meanwhile, the Giants play three winning teams, including the undefeated Panthers and 8-3 division-leading Vikings. A loss to the Jets basically ends the Giants season unless the Redskins shoot themselves in the feet (totally possible, though.)
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This week, I'm going with Calvin Pryor. I think you could make a legitimate argument that the loss of Calvin Pryor hurt the team more than any other injury this season. While his on the field play has been pretty impressive, you get the feeling that his absence goes beyond his actual production. The Jets went 1-2 against 3 teams with losing records during his absence and the secondary looked noticeably worse. I'm not entirely sure how much of this is directly due to Pryor's absence, but he seems to bring a fire to the secondary with his big hits and rangy plays. I never would have expected this after his rookie season, but Pryor appears to be a very important part of the defense and a real force to be reckoned with in Bowles' defensive scheme. The Giants have one of the better big play offenses in the NFL and like to throw the ball around, meaning that Pryor will need to set the tone early. A big hit could lead to some serious cases of alligator arms and concentration lapses later on.
There really isn't any X-Factor bigger than Odell Beckham Jr. right now. OBJ has 5 games of over 100 yards this season. He also has 3 games under 50 yards with no TDs this season. Two of those games came against Dallas. What did Dallas do to slow him down? Everything. They did everything to slow him down. Meanwhile, Manning threw only 60 times against Dallas in 2 games. He's averaging just under 40 attempts per game. In fact, OBJ's 5 lowest yardage totals for the season are the same games in which Eli has thrown the fewest attempts. Makes sense. The fact is that OBJ is going to catch some balls, gain some yards, and probably score a TD. Limiting the Giants' attempts is the best way to slow him down. Fun Fact Again: The Giants are actually 3-2 in games in which OBJ has under 100 receiving yards and are 3-1 in games in which OBJ has no TDs. They are 2-4 in games in which OBJ has over 100 yards receiving and 2-5 in games in which OBJ has a TD. So maybe he was a bad choice as my X-Factor. Oh well, too late.
Keys To Victory
Offense: The Giants defense is simply terrible. Just don't turn the ball over and you're golden. The Giants are dead last in total defense. The Giants are dead last in pass defense. The Giants are dead last in completions allowed. The Giants are dead last in sacks. They are in the bottom half of just about every passing metric I could find. Their run defense is also awful. Throw the ball. Throw it to anyone covered by a linebacker or safety. Avoid turnovers and don't bother testing DRC and the Prince. You'll have about 10 minutes to hold the ball on each pass attempt anyway.
Defense: The Giants offense is actually quite good. It's not easy to find the weakness, though. The Giants are 8th in passing yards per game. The Giants are 28th in rushing yards per game. The combination of Jennings, Darkwa, Vereen, and Williams has its moments, but their running backs have shown much more aptitude as receivers than while carrying the rock. Nickel and Dime defenses will be much more effective against the Giants. Don't leave linebackers on Jennings and Vereen unless you want to see 80 yard wheel route TDs for the home team (technically not us.) Blitz the beleaguered offensive line and don't worry about power football. The Giants really only use the run to set up the pass.
The Bottom Line
I'd really like to say that I'm confident that the Jets are going to win, but that's not something I can do. Yes, the Giants stink this year. Yes, I think the Jets have a better overall team. No, I'm not confident in our chances to win. The Jets will have to play with several costly injuries, including possibly the most important player on defense. Without Revis, the Jets will have to game plan heavily to stop OBJ. Meanwhile, the Giants have been extremely inconsistent and you never know what you're going to get from them. The Jets have been consistently mediocre. Both teams played arguably their best football in losses against the Patriots. The results were relatively similar. I think that the Jets win this game, but it's definitely anyone's guess as to what is going to happen. I'm pretty sure I could copy and paste this description (minus the Revis business) every 4 years until I die or our beloved conquerors, the almighty space gorillas, cancel football to increase our banana farming hours. That's what you should expect from this game every four years: The unexpected.