By Curt Macysyn
Forget all the fluff about the New York Jets (6-5) versus New York Giants (5-6) contest being for Big Apple bragging rights. Quite frankly, even the winner of this game has nothing to brag about yet, as there will be four games remaining in the 2015 regular season after Sunday. As December appears in our calendars, we are faced again with the very real prospect that the NFL playoffs will escape the Metropolitan area again this year.
Fans of the Jets should have encouragement that their team at least answered the bell in the 38-20 drubbing of the Miami Dolphins at the Meadowlands on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Giants played one of its worst games of the season in a lethargic 20-14 loss to the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.
If you believe that you have these squads figured out, you may want to rethink that strategy, as both teams have done well in their football adaptations of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Nonetheless, the game should be an entertaining affair given the relative playoff positions of both team, in addition to the fact that both squads call MetLife Stadium their home.
The Jets come into the game sporting a 6-5 record, as Gang Green jumped out to a 4-1 start. But New York hit mid-season turbulence as the Jets threatened to drop out of contention with back-to-back losses to the Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans. Sunday’s win over the Dolphins puts the Jets in a tie with Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Houston for a wild card playoff spot, but currently the Jets lose the tiebreaker.
In the first year of the Todd Bowles regime, the Jets are attempting to return to the NFL playoffs for the first time in four years, when Rex Ryan led them to the conference finals after the 2010 season. Lately, this match-up has become one-sided as the Giants have won five in a row against the Jets.
New York Jets on Offense
A photo of Ryan Fitzpatrick is next to the definition of “Game Manager” in the dictionary, as the Harvard graduate will never be confused with Tom Brady. With that in mind, Fitzpatrick cannot be judged based solely on his statistics, but rather how he makes in-game adjustments for the offense. For example, his completion rate of 58.5 percent is below what the league standard is, but his 2.476 passing yards ranks him 18th in the NFL. Fitzpatrick has 20 touchdown passes against 11 interceptions, and he has only been sacked 11 times this season. His job is simply to put his team in position to win games.
Burly Chris Ivory ranks sixth in the NFL in rushing with 766 yards on the ground. Ivory has seven rushing touchdowns, and he averages 4.1 yards per carry for the Jets. The receiving tandem of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are lethal for Gang Green, as Marshall leads the team with nine touchdown catches and has 931 receiving yards (fifth in NFL) this season, while Decker has 51 catches this year with seven touchdown grabs. Decker is particularly elusive in the red zone, while Marshall is tough to cover on the end zone fade patterns.
New York Jets on Defense
Muhammed Wilkerson ranks fifth in the NFL in sacks with eight, and the Jets are right in the middle of the defensive pack with 25 sacks as a team. Gang Green is tied for eighth in the league with 11 interceptions. Interceptions leader Marcus Williams already have five on the year, and the Jets have won all five game when Williams has intercepted a pass.
The Jets got back Calvin Pryor from injury against the Dolphins and the safety paid immediate dividends. Pryor set the tone with a clean but vicious hit on Miami’s Rishard Matthews on Sunday that required the receiver to leave the game with rib and chest injuries.
The Jets better hope for a return from concussion for Darrelle Revis, as cornerbacks Buster Skrine and Darrin Walls scuffled in coverage with Odell Beckham’s former teammate Jarvis Landry. Landry had 13 catches for 165 yards and a touchdown, which amounted to the lone bright spot in an otherwise mundane offensive performance for the Dolphins.
Ageless David Harris leads the team in tackles with 75 to go along with 2.5 quarterback sacks. Harris is in his ninth season out of the University of Michigan.
New York Jets Players to Watch
The Giants are dealing with injuries again on their offensive line, and if they cannot contain Muhammed Wilkerson, it could be a long afternoon for the G-men.
Defensively, the Giants have given up too many big pass plays this year, and Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick likes to sling the ball downfield, so look for wideout Brandon Marshall to have a big day in the Meadowlands against the Giants much-maligned safety tandem of Landon Collins and Brandon Meriweather.
If the Giants cannot get up for a divisional game against the Washington Redskins, then what can you make of this group? Yes, bragging rights are at stake, but first place was on the line last week in Washington, and Big Blue pretty much mailed in the first three quarters. Look for the Jets to jump out early and hold on for the victory, as the Giants tease their fans again.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past four seasons for Examiner.com, and he is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Born and raised in New Jersey, Curt attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, N.J. and is a graduate of Rutgers University – New Brunswick. Follow him on Twitter @CurtMac23 for the latest NFL and New York Giants news.