It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. Okay, I'll stop with the Dickens stuff now before I have Braylon Edwards beheaded and Steve Smith is eating gruel and saying things like, "Spare a ha' penny, Guv'nah?" While the New York and Jets both have a talented and productive group of receivers, they couldn't go about their business more differently (though I'll spare you comparing one to France and one to England). The have the classic "look-at-me, I'm trying to be Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco" gang in Edwards and Santonio Holmes, while the Giants feature the humble, quiet Smith and Hakeem Nicks.
The Jets' receivers for the most part have been getting the job done, as exemplified by Edwards' 74-yard touchdown catch and Holmes' 52-yard catch and run in overtime on Sunday, but in the past they've piled up arrests and suspensions as quickly as receptions. Their brash, diva-like ways fit in nicely with the Rex Ryan swaggerin' world of the Jets, though. They play with a chip on their shoulder, and live to be hated. Humbleness has no home in the green version of the New Meadowlands.
But more important than on-field antics is production, and Edwards and Holmes (and Jerricho Cotchery, of course, except for all those dropped passes), though not perfect, are good complements to Mark Sanchez. The second-year QB still has his training wheels on, with a few outstanding performances followed by a handful of subpar outings this year. He's still a work in progress, so having a group of veterans is a good fit for him. They're the steady hand in seeing Sanchez grow up and becoming a top-notch QB--as long as they don't start yapping about "giving them the damn ball." But that's just on the field, that is. Edwards and Holmes have both brought much attention to themselves for their off-field transgressions, and don't have many regrets regarding their troubles. And those non-football problems certainly have not humbled either one when it comes to on-field showboating. But they are who they are, for good or bad.
Unlike the Jets, Eli Manning is the reliable veteran, and he's the one that needs to do the guiding, having a young batch of receivers. Smith came into his own last year, finding great chemistry with Manning. And this season, it's Nicks' turn to star. The two (along with an occasional Mario Manningham highlight) have been so good, that the Giants have gone from their usual, tradition-filled bruising running game to more of a balanced team, with Ahmad Bradshaw providing a big-play spark out of the backfield and the dynamic receivers ready to take over when needed.
The Jets rely on their running backs and Dustin Keller as big pieces of their passing game, more so than the Giants, who rarely use their backs as aerial options, thus needing Nicks and Smith to rack up receptions at their present rate, close to a 100-for-the-season pace. Nicks has the talent to be the greatest receiver in Giants history (though that's not necessarily saying a lot--Amani Toomer, Homer Jones, late-career Frank Gifford--the list isn't very long). He was unstoppable against Dallas and Seattle, and is a veritable touchdown machine this year. Smith was a Pro Bowler last year, and is picking right up where he left off.
Both sets of receivers take on the personas of their coaches. When Randy Moss was recently waived, there was some speculation he might end up with the Jets. One could easily see his troublemaking personality in green and white. But there wasn't as much as a snippet of a rumor that the Giants would be interested. While you most likely won't see Nicks or Smith in a police lineup or getting their own reality show, and there's a good chance Edwards and Holmes will continue to draw attention to themselves for all the wrong reasons, all four fit perfectly into their respective teams' identities.