There were rivalry games and tests against upper-echelon teams all over the map this week, and the results varied on a day-by-day basis. The New York Knicks' schedule was the big story, and they didn't so much as lose to Boston, as they just ran out of time. They did get beaten soundly by Miami, though, and then ran out of steam against a Cavaliers team they should have beaten. The New York Giants had to take on the weather, and they won by beating the Vikings, though Brett Favre didn't exactly have a Cal Ripken-like moment when his consecutive-game streak ended. And then they failed in the most monumental way imaginable by losing to the Eagles after having the game all but won. We'll be talking about this game for decades. The New York Jetswent into Pittsburgh and showed their resilience and fortitude by pulling out a tough victory over the Steelers. The New York Rangers had a rousing victory against elite Pittsburgh, took care of business in their shootout win vs. Phoenix, but fell to the NHL's best, in the Flyers. And the New Jersey Nets won two games, while the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils each won a game this week, which is, unfortunately, rare. And now . . . the Player of the Week:
Mark Sanchez: The maligned quarterback didn't throw any touchdowns, nor did he do anything spectacular, but after taking a beating the last two games on the field and in the media, he bounced back and led his team to a win against one of the top teams in the NFL. Sanchez did score the Jets first offensive touchdown since way before 45-3 and Sideline-Gate and everything else that's gone down the last 13 days. It's been a long two weeks. He went an efficient 19 for 29 (65.5%), and threw for 170 yards without a pick. He had a lot of help, though, of course. Braylon Edwards caught eight passes for 100 yards, Santonio Holmes hauled in six for 40 yards, Brad Smith opened up the game with a rousing 97-yard kickoff return, Drew Coleman led the team with eight tackles and two sacks, Jason Taylor came up with a key safety in the fourth quarter, Nick Folk actually made two field goals and Steve Weatherford pinned the Steelers back in their own territory a few times, making for a long field. It was a total team win, so really, isn't everybody on the Jets the player of the week?
Runners Up & Other Notables
Brandon Jacobs/Eli Manning: The Giants played two games this week, one good and one that I want to pretend didn't exist but it just doesn't work like that. Jacobs was the star in Monday's game, with 116 yards and a touchdown. His career-high 73-yard jaunt down the sideline was the key play of the game. But that's not much comfort after what took place on Sunday. Manning did his job, throwing four touchdown passes, and finished 23 or 39, for 289 yards. Mario Manningham scored two touchdowns and caught eight passes for 113 yards. But so what? The last seven-and-a-half minutes of the game were a Giant fan's biggest nightmare and wiped out anything good that came before it. Did I just get stabbed in the eye with a fork and then whacked in the back of the head with a shovel while tumbling down a flight of stairs and landing into a crocodile pit? Maybe I'm exaggerating, but that's what it felt like.
Raymond Felton: The Knicks fell back to earth this week, with "Dream Week" taking its toll. Not to mention most of the starters playing about 48 minutes a game. Amar'e Stoudemire had his consecutive 30-point game streak snapped (also his Player of the Week streak, too), and had a couple of subpar outings his last two games. So Felton is the Knicks' choice this week. In the Knicks' almost-win against Boston, the point guard poured in 26 points and piled up 14 assists. In the overtime loss to Cleveland, with the team running on fumes, Felton recorded another double-double, with 23 points and 11 assists. Stoudemire did have a monster game against the Celtics, of course, racking up 39 points, with 10 boards, and drained the most memorable three-pointer that never was. And Danilo Gallinari kept the Knicks in the game in the first half against Miami, and finished with 25 points.
Erik Christensen: Was the enigmatic center the Rangers' best player this week? Probably not, but he scored the two most important goals in the team's pair of victories (to go with one loss). On Wednesday, with the Blueshirts losing, 1-0, to Pittsburgh, Christensen whistled a wrist shot into the top corner of the net, starting the third-period four-goal barrage. The next night, he was the only shootout scorer for either team in the Rangers' victory over Phoenix. And he picked up an assist in the loss to the Flyers. Alex Frolov may be waking up, as he had two goals and an assist in the three games. Derek Stepan notched two goals, Dan Girardi had a goal and two assists, Brandon Prust scored another shorthanded goal, which turned the tide in the Phoenix game, and Dale Weise made his debut in Saturday's game and made his mark by beating up Daniel Carcillo. At least one good thing came out of that loss.
Devin Harris: The Nets won two out of four this week, and Harris was the best player in the team's 97-89 win over Washington and the 89-82 victory over Atlanta. He pumped in 29 points and added nine assists in the first, and 22 points with eight helpers in the second. Brook Lopez made some key buckets in Sunday's win, and their bench (Sasha Vujacic, Troy Murphy) contributed mightily. And Kris Humphries played a big part in the Washington win with his defense and rebounding acumen, collecting 17 boards. Humphries notched his eighth double-double of the year in Friday's loss to Toronto.
Rick DiPietro: The Islanders used three goalies in three games, and they managed to pick up three points this week, and there wasn't a citizen from Quebec in sight. DiPietro led them to their only win, though, when they defeated Anaheim on Thursday, 3-2. He made 30 saves, only letting two pucks slip by him. He had to be scratched for Saturday's game, though, which led to Nathan Lawson's NHL debut against the Phoenix Coyotes, who were touring the area this week. The rookie got the team to a shootout, but couldn't quite manage to pick up that extra point. But one point for the Islanders is a blessing at this stage in the season for them.
Ilya Kovalchuk: I was all set to name Martin Brodeur the Devils' representative for his shutout on Wednesday vs. Phoenix, but then Saturday happened, when he let in about 14 goals to Eric Vail, Tom Lysiak and the Atlanta Flames, or whoever it is that plays down there nowadays. The area's less-successful $100-million man, Ilya Kovalchuk, notched two goals in the team's one victory this week, and he also put the lipstick on the pig, with a goal, in Saturday's debacle. One other notable: Nashua, New Hampshire, native Mark Fayne scored his first NHL goal in the win over Phoenix.
For more in-depth discussion on the Giants, Jets, Knicks, Nets, Rangers Islanders and Devils, go to SB Nation's Big Blue View, Gang Green Nation, Posting and Toasting, NetsDaily, Blueshirt Banter, Lighthouse Hockey and In Lou We Trust, respectively.