The Jets are eager to get back to work after their bye week, to continue the momentum from their wins at Denver and over Philadelphia and get into plus-.500 territory again. But the Giants will be a tricky home opponent to tame.
Rivals always present difficulties, whether as division mates or, in the Jets' and Giants' case, as stadium mates and once-an-Olympiad regular-season foes. Big Blue leads in the games that count over the Green & White 8-6 since their first meeting in 1970. And like the Jets, the Giants are feeling good about themselves after vanquishing one of their division foes, the Commanders, by 14-7 at MetLife Stadium last week.
An odd thing about this rivalry is that the Jets do better as the road team (4-3 record, plus-3 turnover margin) than as the home team (2-5, minus-9), so there is that. They also have slightly better league rankings in several key areas, such as point and turnover margins.
But the Giants also have some top players in RB Saquon Barkley, TE Darrin Waller and LB Bobby Okereke, plus some ex-Jets in line for some payback in DL Leonard Williams and CB Jason Pinnock. It should refocus any Jets gaze from thoughts of a long midseason win streak to the game directly in front of them.
"Obviously, the Giants are looking at life a little bit differently also," Jets HC Robert Saleh said. "They've got a chance coming up if they're looking at their schedule saying, 'We've got some winnable games'. So all of our attention is on the Giants, and we're controlling the things we have control over. All our focus is on the Giants, just trying to find a way to do our best against those guys."
Here are six players to watch as the Jets get set to try to extend their win streak to 3 and their record to 4-3 before running into their next primetime exposure vs. the Chargers and at the Raiders the two following weeks:
RB Breece Hall — Time for the next Breece creasing? Hall's big games came in the opener vs. Buffalo and in Week 5 at Denver. KC wasn't bad either. Now he takes his NFL-leading 6.5 yards/carry, built in part on the league's two longest runs this season, into his home stadium as a road warrior to try to slash and gash the Giants' run defense, which has allowed 5.01 yards/carry (29th in the league) and given up 8 rushes of 20+ yards (30th). A big run game will enable Zach Wilson and the passing offense to find connections against Big Blue, which has faced a good amount of play action and has yielded a healthy YAC to opposing receivers.
QB Zach Wilson and WR Garrett Wilson — No question Zach has been seeking out Garrett — G.Wilson's 55 targets is more than twice as many as TE Tyler Conklin's 27, No. 2 in the offense. But Garrett, while coming off his best yardage game vs. the Eagles (8-90), still hasn't had that monster game yet this season. Is Sunday the day against the NFL's 21st-ranked pass defense in terms of yards/play? And especially against the Giants' 29th-ranked sack operation, if the home team doubles Garrett, might that open the door for Conklin and especially WR Allen Lazard, who's been quiet so far yet is still averaging a team-high 15.0 yards/reception?
DL Quinnen Williams — We mention Q here about every other week, but he and the Jets' front-four rotation will play a major role in this important matchup. Job one is to keep tabs on RB Saquon Barkley, always dangerous but being held to 3.8 yards/carry in his four games. Get that done and the pass rushers will take aim at Tyrod Taylor, who could get his third start for ailing Daniel Jones. The Jets haven't seen Taylor since beating him and the Texans in '21, but they're familiar with him from his 7 starts against them for the Bills, in which he posted a 4-3 record and a 92.8 rating. TT still isn't committing TOs, but in his last 3 starts, the Jets sacked him a combined 15 times.
CB Sauce Gardner and S Jordan Whitehead — This is a mix-and-match way of saying the secondary will also be in the spotlight. Gardner and D.J. Reed are expected to return from the NFL's concussion protocol after missing a combined 3 games, and they can't have missteps covering the productive Darius Slayton and the explosive Jalin Hyatt. Whitehead and the safeties will also be under the gun working against TE Darrin Waller. who is the only 200-yard receiver vs. the Jets since 2015 (13-200-2 TDs for Las Vegas in '20). Waller had his best game of the season last week vs. Washington (7-98-1) and the defense's back seven need to make sure he doesn't go off Sunday.