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Giants & Jets week 6: The ghosts of history past

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Thearon W. Henderson - Getty Images

The New York Giants and New York Jets take on conference rivals this Sunday, and both have plenty of history against their opponents. The Giants and San Francisco 49ers staged some epic, brutal battles in the 1980s and early '90s, not to mention tangling in one just nine months ago. And the Jets only played the most important game in their franchise history vs. the Colts. Here's a look back at each rivalry's (mainly) playoff meetings.

The Giants and 49ers are dead-even when it comes to their all-time record: 14-14 in the regular season and 4-4 in the playoffs. They first met on Nov. 9, 1952, at the Polo Grounds, with the Giants defeating San Francisco and future Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle, 23-14. It wasn't until their playoff meetings in the 1980s when things heated up between the two teams. In 1981, the Giants qualified for the postseason for the first time since 1963, and after beating the Eagles, 27-21, in the Wild Card round, they faced the 49ers for the first time in the playoffs. The 49ers won handily, 38-24, with Joe Montana outclassing Scott Brunner, and Ronnie Lott intercepting a pair of passes. 1984 was the first of three consecutive playoff matchups, and the 49ers won, 21-10, a week after the Giants dispatched the Los Angeles Rams, 16-13. Phil Simms was at the helm for the Giants, and he and Montana combined to throw five interceptions, though the 49er QB tossed three touchdown passes to go along with his picks. The only Giant points came from a Harry Carson interception return and an Ali Haji-Sheikh field goal. The tide turned for the Giants the following year, when they finally defeated the 49ers in the Wild Card round, 17-3 (but lost to the Super Bowl Shuffle Bears the following week). Joe Morris rushed for 141 yards, Simms tossed two touchdown passes and Montana was sacked four times by the dominant Giants defense.

The next two playoff games saw the Giants' punishing defense knock Montana out of each contest. In January of 1987, on their way to the Super Bowl, Big Blue destroyed the 49ers, 49-3, with Jim Burt cleaning Montana's clock, while Lawrence Taylor picked off his pass on the same play and ran it back for a touchdown. Four years later, it was Leonard Marshall's turn to crush Montana, as the Giants defeated San Francisco, 15-13, in the NFC Championship Game. It was a defensive battle for the ages, with Matt Bahr booting five field goals for the Giants, and Big Blue went on to win their second Super Bowl. The two teams were back at it again, after the '93 season, and in Simms' and Taylor's final NFL game, the Giants lost, 44-3. Nine years later, at Candlestick Park, the Giants blew a 38-14 lead, to lose 39-38, with a controversial missed pass interference call foiling the Giants on their final field-goal attempt, completing their total meltdown. The Giants got their revenge, though, last season, when they beat the 49ers in overtime, 20-17, with Devin Thomas recovering two fumbles, Eli Manning taking a beating but surviving to toss two touchdown passes and throw for 316 yards and Lawrence Tynes kicking them to a Super Bowl for the second time in four years.

The Jets-Colts history is as lopsided as Giants-49ers is even. The Jets have a meager 26-40 regular season record vs. Baltimore/Indianapolis but they're 3-1 against the Colts in postseason play. The first-ever meeting was the historic third Super Bowl, played on Jan. 12, 1969, in a battle of the Hairs vs. the Squares, when Joe Namath's guarantee came true in the 16-7 victory that legitimized the AFL. Broadway Joe thwarted Baltimore's blitzkrieg attack by dumping off screens to Bill Mathis and Matt Snell, while Snell rushed for 121 yards and scored the only touchdown for Gang Green. The hobbled Don Maynard was used as a decoy, with George Sauer hauling in eight passes for 133 yards on the other side of the field. And the Jet defense intercepted Earl Morrall three times and Johnny Unitas once, which stopped any momentum the Colts had going for them. The two teams met for the first time in the regular season in 1970, when the Colts joined the AFC East in the debut year of the merger, with the two teams sharing a division for the next three decades. The Colts and Unitas got a bit of revenge, with a 29-22 win in October at Shea Stadium. Two years later, Namath and Unitas put on a show for the ages in the Jets' 44-34 victory. The two legendary quarterbacks combined for a then-record 872 passing yards. Namath threw for 496 yards with six touchdowns, while Unitas tossed two touchdown passes and threw for 376 yards. It was the final time the two quarterbacks would face each other.

In 1998, rookie Peyton Manning notched his second career NFL win when he orchestrated a fourth-quarter, game-winning drive, to defeat the Jets, 24-23. Two years later, Curtis Martin ran for 203 yards in a 27-17 Jet win over Indianapolis. The Jets and Colts resumed their playoff rivalry in the 21st century, beginning on Jan. 4, 2003, when Chad Pennington (19-for-25, 222 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions) schooled Manning (14-for-31, 137 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions), as his Jets steamrolled the Colts, 41-0, in the Wild Card round of the postseason. They met again seven years later, which was Rex Ryan's first season as Jet coach, in the AFC Championship Game, but this time the Colts would come out on top, 30-17, as the Jets couldn't hold a 17-13 halftime lead. The two teams also met during the penultimate game of the regular season, and, with Indianapolis resting many of their starters in the second half, the Jets handed them their first loss of the season, ruining the Colts' half-hearted bid for a perfect season. The following year it would be the Jets who would come out victorious, when Nick Folk booted a last-second 32-yard field goal to win it, 17-16, and the Jets would then take down the New England Patriots before falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game.

The Giants-49ers rivalry was as 1980s as Theo Huxtable, mullets and "Come On Eileen." While the Jets-Colts Super Bowl helped to define the new NFL. It's the 49ers turn to look for revenge on Sunday, while the Jets try to regain some lost mojo against Andrew Luck and the new-look, Peyton Manning-less Colts. And surely, there will be plenty of ghosts watching both games.