The Jets and Giants will renew their rivalry with what could be a defensive struggle
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The Jets and Giants don't have an NFL rivalry developed from years of playing each other in meaningful games.
This one was a New York City rivalry that started a decade before the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. It has evolved over the last half-century to the point where it's now two teams with New York names based in New Jersey. Their headquarters are about 25 miles apart and they play each other every preseason, and then for real once every four years.
“I mean, you’re kind of claiming for the city, right?” Jets center Connor McGovern said. “It’s a fun crosstown rival, same stadium.”
The Giants came to the New Jersey Meadowlands in 1976 and the Jets joined them at Giants Stadium in 1984. The teams combined to build and co-own MetLife Stadium in 2010.
On Sunday, the Jets (3-3) and Giants (2-5) will play a real-deal game in the latest bid for area bragging rights.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) crosses the goal line for a touchdown against the Washington Commanders during the second quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
“We don’t play them twice a year. You know, you’re just kind of quote, unquote ‘a rival’ because you’re in the same city," Jets defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers said. “And I don’t know why, but I get it — you have to be a rivalry in the same city. You’ve got to be the big brother, little brother, whatever that is. But at the end of the day, shoot, I want to be the winner. I don’t give a (damn) about no big brother, little brother, small, medium, large. I don’t care about none of that (stuff). I want to win.”
Many of the Jets and Giants players see each other at social events during the season and they get along. They understand the rivalry is more for the fans.
“It’s a big game for us to understand the importance of the game, just like any other one,” Giants veteran wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. “But yeah, this one has a little bit more hype to it.”
PUNCHING IT IN
Zach Wilson and the Jets have been moving the ball down the field a lot more efficiently the last few games. But when they get inside their opponents’ 20-yard line, things seem to stall.
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)
The Jets rank last in the NFL in scoring touchdowns in the red zone at 29.4%, going 5 for 17. They know in order to keep winning, they need to turn some of those field goals into touchdowns more consistently.
“Yeah, I think we’re close, but I think it just comes down to eliminating the negative plays,” Wilson said. “I feel like we’re hitting the red zone and putting ourselves too far back behind the sticks to have a shot at it and that starts with me, the communication, getting everybody on the same page.”
The Jets didn’t allow any points in the second half in their win over Philadelphia. It was the third time in the last two seasons they've shut out an opponent after halftime.
New York also has given up just one touchdown in the second half in six games this season, and opponents have scored only 11 second-half points in the last three games.
“The important thing is when we come to the sideline and we’ve got something lingering around or something like that, we’re making sure we’re getting clear and making sure we’re all on the same page,” said linebacker Quincy Williams, who leads the team with 60 tackles. “So when we go back out, they don’t hit us again the same way.”
STINGY D II
The Giants have shut out their opponents in the first half of the last two games. They have allowed the Bills and Commanders to score 21 points combined in the last two games, and the touchdown Washington scored came after Shepard muffed a punt and it was recovered at the 21-yard line.
It was the first time the Giants held their opponent scoreless in the first half of consecutive games since Oct. 30 and Nov. 6, 2005, when they led Washington (19-0) and San Francisco (10-0).
The game could mark the return of the Jets’ two starting cornerbacks. Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed have been sidelined with concussions.
Reed has missed two games and Gardner one, but they appeared on track to play against the Giants. Both practiced Wednesday and Thursday.
The Giants signed 2020 Pro Bowl punt returner Gunner Olszewski to their practice squad after putting rookie running back and punt returner Eric Gray (calf) on injured reserve.
Gray and Shepard both muffed punts on a windy Sunday and the Commanders fell on Shepard's.
Olszewski has averaged 12 yards on punt returns in his career with the Patriots and Steelers, who let him go earlier this month because of ball security issues. Expect him to be activated for Sunday.