By Paul Dottino
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There may have been no better way to identify the philosophical differences between the Giants and the Jets than to read their quotes in the newspapers this past week.
Jets coach Rex Ryan, in his usual outspoken manner, has spent the week by using an inferiority complex and playing the David and Goliath card to motivate his team. The Giants’ Tom Coughlin reiterated one of his old mantras – “Talk is Cheap, Play the Game” – and said he was satisfied that his players did not step out of line with any of their responses.
The bottom line is that the NFL doesn’t care about which player said what – it will look at the final score on Saturday afternoon, adjust the standings and explain how each franchise has altered its possible postseason scenario. Then, each team will have one more regular season game left to determine its fate. Nothing the Giants or Jets barked about will either open or close the door to the playoffs, which is all that really matters.
The Giants (7-7) are reeling, having lost five of six, but wins over the Jets and Cowboys means they’ll be the NFC East champions – otherwise, they are almost surely finished. The Jets (8-6) still have a bit of wiggle room, even if they lose this week, but it gets a bit sticky.
So let’s get to the key matchups for the Giants:
1. Giants LDE Justin Tuck and RDE Jason Pierre-Paul vs. Jets RT Wayne Hunter and LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Jets QB Mark Sanchez does a fine job managing games, but is not very accurate and has shown a propensity to make mistakes when under significant defensive pressure or when being asked to carry the team on his shoulders.
The Giants’ weakened pass rush still does not have DE Osi Umenyiora (ankle), so Tuck and JPP will have to be at their best to rattle Sanchez’ cage. Hunter has allowed 8.5 sacks and Ferguson 7.5 this season – they have trouble with speed rushers and that should play into the Giants’ hands. In fact, Sanchez has been sacked at least three times in six games this season.
2. Giants CBs Corey Webster and Aaron Ross vs. Jets WRs Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes. This matchup really is an extension of the first one because heavy pressure on Sanchez will significantly aid the Giants’ corners in containing their counterparts.
The fact that Burress and Holmes are averaging less than 14 yards per catch and that neither receiver has caught a pass longer than 38 yards this season tells you all you need to know about the Jets’ passing attack – they want to keep things short-to-medium for Sanchez to improve his accuracy. But it’s important to note that Burress and Holmes each have caught eight TD passes this season and the Jets lead the NFL in the Red Zone, scoring TDs on 68 percent of their trips.
The Giants’ corners may be well advised to get rough with the receivers at the line, but this becomes must more of a risk if defensive front cannot get to Sanchez.
3. Giants WRs Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz vs. Jets CBs Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. This battle takes on characteristics that are opposite to what the Giants’ corners will face.
The Giants’ receivers are more involved in making big plays – Nicks and Cruz have become the first 1,000-yard receiving duo in team history. They will run deep routes and they are able to make significant yardage after the catch. Revis and Cromartie are physical corners who play a lot of man coverage, although Cromartie can get sloppy – he’s drawn seven flags (holding/pass interference) this season.
PREDICTION: Giants 26, Jets 20
PREDICTION RECORD VS. SPREAD: 6-8
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