The Battle of the Big Apple. The Metopolitan Melee at MetLife. Possible Preview of Super Bowl XLVII??
OK, before I get too ahead of myself, the match-up between the New York Giants and the New York Jets will not live up to any of the potential theses grandiose titles offer. For those thinking this game offers little emotion, however, you’d be sorely mistaken.
When asked if Rex Ryan remembered the Christmas Eve shellacking at the hands of the Giants, he was point blank:
[There are] a lot of things you’d like to erase in your memory, but that unfortunately will stay in there. That one stung, no question about it. I don’t want to rehash all of last season, but obviously you remember [that] game for sure.
The emotion isn’t just felt at on the Jets end either. With two Lombardi trophies in hand — one since they’ve called MetLife Stadium home — the Giants have yet to unpack and settle in their new New Jersey home. After years of subletting Giants stadium on alternating Sundays, the Giants have hosted one match-up to the Jets two, including the Christmas Eve regular season showdown. Throw in the Jets unveiling MetLife stadium on the 10th anniversary of September 11th and it’s easy to see why Giants fan shutter when they hear the words “JetLife Stadium”.
The battle of bragging rights aside, the Jets have a lot of prove (to themselves) on Saturday. Here’s a breakdown of what to keep a keen eye on.
- OFFENSIVE LINE COHESION: Through out the offseason and training camp members of the offensive line separately told Jets Insider that the decline of their performance in 2011 was wiped clean from their memories. Five sacks later against Cincinnati and that vision of their turn-style of play is in the forefront of our minds. Yes, Austin Howard thus far has been impressive. But it will take more than a player with four career games under his belt to rejuvenate a veteran unit. Pro Bowl* left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson needs to remember how to properly protect Mark Sanchez’s blindside. Facing the Giants’ vaunted defensive line will prove as a good test in showing how far this unit has come under Dave DeGuglielmo & Tony Sparano’s system.
- SHONN GREENE: The veteran bell cow of this ground and pound team has yet to take the reigns and lead the way. I get that Greene isn’t a flashy guy. He makes his living moving the pile three or four yards at a time. Rushing the ball five times for 11 yards is neither gritty or flashy however. With Joe McKnight expecting a break out year for himself and the apparent emergence of second-year back Bilal Powell, Greene needs to show that he is still the bell cow of this ball.
- SANCHEZ TAKING CHANCES: The Jets Insider Radio Show had NY Metro’s Kristian Dyer on last night (search “JetsInsider” on iTunes!) and he brought up an interesting point about the fourth year starter. While many have praised Sanchez for having a stellar camp, Dyer argues that he’s not challenging himself enough in practice i.e. taking chances down field, throwing in to coverages. According to Dyer, Sanchez would too often make the safe throw in practice that might not be available in game situations. He makes an interesting point. One I previously hadn’t thought of. After all you play the way you practice, right? It’s OK for Sanchez to pull the reigns off and test himself. If not in practice or preseason then when?
- YOUNG RECEIVERS MAKING STRIDES: This goes hand-in-hand with number three. With both Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley out nursing injuries, the opportunity to cut these young wideouts’ teeth is for the taking. Players like Stephen Hill, Patrick Turner, Dexter Jackson and Jordan White all have the chance to step up, but who will shine brightest? It’s imperative for Hill, who’s expected to produce right away, to get up to speed with receiving style of the NFL. He is the most raw of the bunch, but his skill set offers the highest ceiling. White is an interesting story as well. He hasn’t seen much time on the field due to a foot injury, however he’s recently shown what he can offer from the slot position. The only way for young players to drop the “young” label is to get as many reps in as they can. A glass half full perspective sees the good in the ‘Tone and Kerley injuries.
- SCORING! SCORING! SCORING!: In their last three games the Jets have put together only TWO touchdown drives. A big part of having no touchdown drives? Not sustaining drives period. In those three games they’ve boasted third down efficiency totals of (4-13 vs. CIN, 4-11 vs. MIA, 4-21 vs. NYG). That’s good for a 26.% third down efficiency rating. In order to do so, they need offensive line cohesion, Sanchez taking chances with his young receivers and Greene running with success.
Sounds easy, right? Let’s see how easy the Jets make it this Saturday against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium 8 p.m.