New York Giants vs. New York Jets, Saturday, Dec. 24 at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. ET). This one has been circled on the calendars of fans, players and everyone associated with the two teams who share the East Rutherford, N.J. stadium since the day the NFL released its 2011-12 schedule.
This, of course, is the regular-season battle for New York City bragging rights that Jets coach Rex Ryan so badly wants. For each team, though, the bragging rights are but a small part of the story this week. The Giants (7-7) and the Jets (8-6) are each coming off devastating losses on Sunday, and each team is desperate for a victory that will enhance their playoff possibilities.
For the Giants, a loss to the Jets combined with a Dallas Cowboys victory over the Philadelphia Eagles would knock them out of playoff contention. The Giants' only path to the playoffs is to win the NFC East title, and to do that they need victories in their final two games.
For the Jets, a loss Saturday to the Giants could also implode their season. The Jets would make the playoffs as a wild-card if they started today since they hold the tie-breaker advantage over the Cincinnati Bengals (also 8-6). If, however, the Jets lose to the Giants there is nothing they will be able to do to make the playoffs if the Bengals win both of their remaining games. So, to control their own playoff destiny, the Jets must win on Saturday.
Neither team has been stellar thus far this season. In fact, the only thing you can say with any certainty is that both teams have been unpredictable. The Giants have been all over the map, winning games where it appeared they had no chance and losing games you would think they should have dominated. The Jets have had a three-game winning streak and a three-game losing streak.
The trash talking between the two New York teams might be muted because of the circumstances both teams find themselves in. That, however, does not mean there won't be any. Ryan already started it, in fact:
"I recognize that they’re an excellent football team, but I think we’re better," Ryan said on a conference call. "I never came here to be little brother to anyone. So, it's on ... There's no way I'm going to be second fiddle."
Giants' linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka responded with this, from Jeff Roberts via Twitter:
"I know we're the better team, We just have to go out there and prove it ... Talking trash isn't going to help you on the field."
The Jets are three-point favorites.