If all the green and blue talk this week showed one thing, it's that there may be 50 shades of rivalry in the NFL.
As Jets head coach Todd Bowles said, "I don't think it's a rivalry because we don't play the Giants as much." True, Sunday's meeting at MetLife Stadium is only the teams' 13th since 1970. (As an aside, not once have both teams come in with winning records.)
Yet since these organizations have shared the same stadium since 1984, played each other in the preseason every year since 1969, and split up the New York metro area since 1960, this is a different breed of spat. And although the players jump through hoops to downplay it, the fans of both teams — and especially Jets fans, who haven't tasted victory in this, well, rivalry, since '93 — want this one bad.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick said when he left the Rangers game he attended this week, "There were a couple of chants going back and forth, whether they were for the green team or the blue team — some animated fans. That was one of my first tastes of maybe some of the hostility between the fans. That was a cool experience for me. That was fun."
But it will be more fun if the Jets can survive the hostility of being the road team in their own building, improve to 7-5 (two games over .500 this late in the season for the first time in four years), and elevate their AFC playoff profile, all at the same time.
"I know how much we're putting into each week, how much we care about this game, and how much it means to us," Fitz said. "I think that's the focus."
Here are seven more points of consideration about Jets vs. Giants:
1. Uneven Playing Field
The series has tilted the Giants' way since the Jets' last win — they've won the last five to take an 8-4 lead. Of small comfort for Green & White fans: The Jets have played better as the road team with three of their four wins, including their 26-20 win at the Yale Bowl in 1974 on Joe Namath's tying keeper and winning OT pass to Emerson Boozer, a nine-sack game of Phil Simms in a 26-7 win in the Meadowlands in '81, and a rainy 10-6 triumph with Boomer Esiason besting Simms in '93. Yeah, we know. Ancient history.
In Addition to Annual Preseason Matchups Dating Back to the Yale Bowl in 1969, the Jets & Giants Have Met 12 Times During the Regular Season, Most Recently on Dec. 24, 2011
2. Ivory's Run
What did Chris Ivory think of his 31-yard TD run vs. Miami? "I was impressed with it," he said with a smile. He should've been. In breaking five tackles, he unfurled one of the highlight runs of his career. And in first being hit 2 yards behind the LOS, the play was typical of his day: He absorbed first contact behind the line on 10 carries, gained only 1 yard before contact, yet had 86 yards after. He's still 234 yards away from his first 1,000-yard rushing season, but another milestone is within reach against the Giants: 54 yards rushing/receiving will give him his first 1,000-yard scrimmage season.
3. Battle Turnover
What makes the Giants so dangerous? Perhaps it's their takeaway talents. Their 23 TAs are second in the NFL and their plus-10 turnover margin and 73 points off turnovers are both third. The Jets can go toe-to-toe in TOs, except that their top two pickpockets, Darrelle Revis and Marcus Williams (6 takeaways each) could both be injury scratches. But Eli, they're comin' — the Jets lead the NFL with 11 fumble recoveries, with five of them coming on strip sacks and three of those occurring in the past four games.
4. Rockin' Red Zone O
OC Chan Gailey said Bowles had the Jets "start working on red zone from almost the third day we got here. He really believes in situational football." It showed up against Miami with four RZ touchdowns, giving the Jets a 73.0% TD rate that remains first in the NFL and, if it holds up, would set the team season record, as would the 5.8 points/RZ drive. The Big Three — Eric Decker (8), Brandon Marshall (5) and Ivory (6) — have scored 19 TDs and Fitzpatrick has 16 TD passes, no INTs and a 105.8 rating "in the zone."
5. Rock-Walled Red Zone D
And let's not forget the defense inside the opponents' 20. Williams' interception of Ryan Tannehill last week was the Jets' fifth RZ takeaway, and marked the eighth time foes didn't score on a trip into the zone. And Miami's two late TDs couldn't knock the Jets from the No. 1 perch on the defensive side of the NFL's red zone ledger with a 38.5% TD rate that, if that holds up, would be the team's best rate since 1972.
6. Three-and-Out Algebra
The Jets have "ascended" to the worst 3-and-out offense in the NFL, averaging three plays and a punt on 28.4% of their drives. The Jets defense, however, has climbed to second-best in opponents' 3-and-outs (29.7%). The Giants, on the other hand, have the worst D in the league in forcing punts (30.2%) and third-worst in forcing 3-and-outs (16.7%). We're not sure if all of this cancels out, but it seems the Green & White offense might have a chance to extend drives while Manning and the blue team might not.
7. Air Fitz
This would be a fine milestone for Fitzpatrick. A win would mark the first time in his 11-year career that he won seven games as a starting QB. And coming off his 4-TD, no-INT, 118.9 rating against the Dolphins, he could continue his personal air raid in the same stadium vs. the Giants, who are last in the league in total yards allowed, passing yards allowed, and yards allowed on first downs (6.54). All he has to do is outscore Manning-to-Odell Beckham et al. Should be a fun renewal of this rivalry.