For now, it’s about bragging rights. On Christmas Eve, it counts for real.
Hurricane Irene has come and gone and tonight, at the newly renamed MetLife Stadium, the New York Giants and New York Jets renew their annual preseason rivalry which this year has taken on a bit more meaning. In Week 15 the Jets will host the Giants, a game which will give one team’s fan base an early Christmas gift, and the other perhaps questioning its playoff future.
But Monday is about both teams gearing up for Week 1, as the game provides Rex Ryan and Tom Coughlin the last real chance to see what they have heading into the regular season. The starters should play into the third quarter, so the entire first half will be a good barometer of the state of New York’s football teams for 2011.
The Jets figure to be the better bet to make a deep postseason run. Having reached the AFC Championship game two years in a row, the Jets believe they have the pieces in place to get to that next plateau, the Super Bowl. Quarterback Mark Sanchez is entering his third season and will be expected to make a big leap in terms of production and leadership. The defense, as always under Ryan, figures to be one of the league’s top-rated outfits.
The Giants had a largely ineffective and perhaps downright bad offseason, letting players like Kevin Boss and Steve Smith leave town. The Giants also lost cornerback Terrell Thomas for the season in their last preseason game, and their first-round pick, cornerback Prince Amukamara, is likely to miss the season’s first four weeks with a foot injury. But they still have a Super Bowl champion quarterback under center, and one of the best pass rushing units in the league. The Giants may not be as hyped on the Jets, but they could quietly be one of the top teams in a weak NFC this season.
And then there’s Plaxico Burress, who will face the team which he helped win a Super Bowl for the first time since returning to the NFL this season as a member of the Jets. The Giants look like a team that could use the services of Burress, who, if he remains healthy, appears to still have the goods to be a top-flight receiver. The Jets gave Burress that chance while the Giants had their doubts. It will be interesting to see how Burress fares tonight and if he tries to make a statement to his former employers.
The Giants-Jets preseason game is usually as intense as a preseason game can get, and tonight should be no different. While we have to wait until Week 15 for it to really count, whoever wins tonight’s game will have an early chip on their shoulder.