The last time the Jets and Giants squared off in a game of the upmost importance it was Christmas Eve in 2011. The Jets (8-6) and Giants (7-7) both needed a win that day to help resuscitate a dead season full of disappointment.
The Giants had to spend not only an entire week, but three years hearing about how the Jets were going to clobber the Giants and paint New York in green and white. The Jets even took their brash hatred of the Giants a step further when they covered Big Blue's Super Bowl murals with black tarp, which infuriated the Giants.
The Giants beat up the Jets that day 29-14. Mark Sanchez was his typically pathetic self for the Jets, and the legend of Victor Cruz was born with a 99-yard touchdown catch and run that not only sent the Giants to their eighth win of the year, but launched another unlikely Super Bowl run in the Tom Coughlin era.
Now, things have changed a little bit. The Jets no longer are brash. Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez are long gone. Todd Bowles now leads this team, but the results have been mixed. The Jets (6-5) need to win this game in order to validate a possible turnaround after the team dropped four of five, preceding their 38-20 win over Miami.
Meanwhile for the Giants they are in a position somewhat similar to where they were in 2011. They are in dire need of a win against the Jets after coughing up a great opportunity to take full control of the NFC Eastern Division with a win over the Redskins. Of course, Washington won big 20-14 over a Giants team that looked ill prepared for the ball game. Eli Manning had one of the worst days of his illustrious career, throwing three interceptions that doomed the Giants comeback hopes.
Now the Giants have to make the playoffs or Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese could be looking for work come January. A win against the Jets would go a long way in healing some wounds and calming down some major disappointment from the Giants front office. A lose to the Jets, and suddenly the temperature will start to hit a boiling point.
Never in the history of the Giants-Jets regular season rivalry has this game meant so much to both teams. In a lot of ways credit the schedule makers for putting his matchup so late in the season since it has added significance. Had the two MetLife Stadium tenants met in September or October it would have been muffled by the noise of Mets and Yankees postseason baseball.
Now all the eyes of New York and New Jersey will be on this very day.
Look inside the matchup and neither team has a clear advantage over the other. The Jets strength is to run the football, but that has been compromised this year by a battered offensive line, with Nick Mangold nursing numerous injuries, and Chris Ivory looking less and less like a 1,000 yard back with each passing week.
The Jets passing attack is very Jekyll and Hyde. One week Ryan Fitzpatrick can have a field day with pitch-and-catch to Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. The next week, either Fitzpatrick is badly inaccurate, or the Jets receiving corps drops one big pass after another.
Defensively, the Jets enter this contest with questions about Darrelle Revis' health, as he continues to battle back from a concussion. There is no word as of Wednesday night whether Revis will play or not. The Jets spent $150 million to revamp their secondary, and as a collection they have disappointed this season.
The Giants are no better. They can't run the football period. The Giants are 28th in rushing offense, with Rashad Jennings continuing to be a major disappointment in the backfield. And what ever happened to Andre Williams? Someone needs to file a missing person's report. Until last week, Manning was having an MVP-type of season; it was fair to say that without Manning the Giants would be even worse than their 5-6 record considering the talent level on this team.
That being said, the Giants have a talent corps of receivers, but they need to get them involved more in the gameplan, and can ill afford the inconsistency of Ruben Randall and Hakeem Nicks to continue. Dwayne Harris has been a pleasant surprise all year, and adds that big playmaking ability that can work alongside Odell Beckham Jr.
Defensively though, the Giants are a mess. No matter how hard defensive coordinator Steve Spagnoluo has tired, he hasn't been able to get this unit to play well on a regular basis. Yes, the return of Jason Pierre-Paul (AKA Jason Four Fingers), has helped, but he can only do so much. The secondary for Big Blue has been just as weak as Gang Green's maybe even worse.
Oh, and did I mention the Giants have trouble closing games out? Yeah, that too.
So perhaps Sunday's Giants vs. Jets matchup isn't about who wants it more, rather it is about who isn't going to make the most mistakes. One would have to think that one fanbases frowns will be turned into smiles by 4:30 on Sunday. Then again, considering how inconsistent these two teams are, nothing would surprise anyone if this ends in a tie.