Empire State of Decline: Jets and Giants Are Two Average Football Teams
In the recent and very popular song, "Empire State of Mind," there are the following lyrics: "In New York, concrete jungles where dreams are made of, there is nothing you can't do, now you're in New York. These streets will make you feel brand new, big lights will inspire you, let's hear it for New York ..." and so on and so fourth as Jay-Z and Alicia Keys tell all of us how big dreams can come true by living or working in or near New York City.
That sounds about right for the New York Yankees right about now, as they are having a parade down the Cannon of Heroes after clinching their 27th World Championship, but don't recite those lyrics to two NFL franchises that happen to call New York City and Northern New Jersey home.
The "bright lights" are not exactly inspiring the Jets and Giants right now; both teams are mired in unpredictable and somewhat shocking slumps as we move along in the month of November.
In some respects, the Jets and Giants should thank the Yankees for their long postseason run, because without the Bronx Bombers, the Jets and Giants would be getting plastered on the talk radio circuit on a 24/7 loop.
Funny, too, considering almost a year ago, fans were going gaga over the possibility of a Subway Super Bowl, and just two months ago when the Jets and Giants were undefeated, fans were starting to get that perky feeling once again.
Don't get me wrong, I am a life long Jets fan, and when the Giants are on, I will watch and root for them too; having two winning football teams in New York is better than having one or none.
But the fact is that neither team is very good right now.
Let's start with the Giants.
Big Blue got off to an incredible 5-0 start, pounding the life out of the likes of the Raiders, Chiefs, Buccaneers, and Redskins. Only problem is those four teams are currently the dregs of the NFL. Even Rutgers could beat the Skins, Raiders, Bucs, and Chiefs now.
Since that time, the Giants have faced a great deal of adversity. They suffered blowout losses to the Saints and Eagles, along with a disturbing home loss to the Cardinals two weeks ago. Many have begged the question whether new defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan is in over his head, but the fact remains it isn't easy to lead a group that is missing a bunch of its key players.
Jay Alfred is out for the year with a knee injury. Kenny Phillips is lost with a hamstring tear. Michael Boley, the prized off-season free agent signing, has missed a lot of time due to various injuries, Chris Canty and Aaron Ross are lost for the year as well. Add to that the fact that Justin Tuck has been hobbled by a arm injury for most of the year, and more recently, wide receiver Mario Manningham has been bothered by a bum shoulder.
Hence, the formula for disaster.
It makes one wonder about the legitimacy of the Giants medical training staff. The G-Men use the same hospital that the New York Mets use for their players, the same Mets who lost every single starting player in its lineup this year due to various bizarre injuries.
The health of the Giants is a huge concern moving forward toward the stretch run. If none of the lost players return, it could spell doom for Big Blue when it comes time to clinch a playoff spot.
In two of the Giants last three losses, the defense has been carved up for a combined 884 yards of offense, while surrendering a combined 88 points. The Giants, who used to have one of the games most punishing D's in football, have looked pretty ordinary.
On the offensive side of the ball, Eli Manning has been shockingly awful. Against the Eagles, Manning was sacked twice and picked off two more times in the 40-17 defeat. He just hasn't looked like the Eli that torched the Dallas Cowboys in week 2.
One reason for Manning's struggles is the fact that the Giants have gotten away from their bread and butter: the running game. Last week against Philly, Brandon Jacobs carried the ball only 20 times, while Ahmad Bradshaw got nine touches. Against the Cardinals, Jacobs had 13 carries, while Bradshaw got 12 carries. If the Giants are going to turn things around, they have got to get the ground game going.
Another reason could be the injury that Manning suffered in Kansas City. Manning injured his foot on a bomb down the sideline and played only sparingly in the Giants 44-7 win over the Raiders the following week.
Since that Raider game, Manning has thrown six picks and doesn't look comfortable at all. The Giants can't afford to sit him, which is basically conceding the season. He will have to tough this one out and get better treatment for that injury during the winter.
Caveat: the schedule.
The Giants schedule is very difficult. They play San Diego this week, Atlanta after the bye, and Denver on Thanksgiving night. The Cowboys, Eagles and Vikings will soon follow in December, so the Giants will have to turn things around in a hurry. If not, Big Blue could be staring at a failed season.
Meanwhile, the Jets have once again found a way to take the rug out from underneath its fan base.
Throughout the months of July, August and September, Rex Ryan graced his fans with declarations of a better tomorrow, with a team full of misfits who would play with reckless abandon from start to finish. He touted that his team would not kiss Bill Belichick's rings and would fight their way to the top of the AFC East.
Things looked good early.
The Jets new 46 D lambasted the powerful Houston Texans offense, and took it to Tom Brady and the Pats in week two. Mark Sanchez was playing above and beyond rookie expectations, fielding nearly flawless football in the Jets 3-0 start. The Jets were playing so well that many began to buy into Ryan's boisterous talk, and his team's hard-nosed attitude.
Alas, the Jets soon came crashing down to earth.
First, it was Sanchez's rookie coming out party against the Saints, when he threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. He even fumbled a ball in the end zone, which was recovered by Will Smith for a touchdown.
From there, things just got worse for Gang Green.
They were exposed defensively as frauds against the Miami Dolphins on a Monday Night in Miami, as the Wild Cat ate up the Jets defense.
Then, Sanchez put on his worst performance of the year throwing five picks in an unacceptable 16-13 overtime loss to the Bills, which was backed up two weeks later by a special teams meltdown against the (dare I say) Miami Dolphins yet again.
It doesn't help matters that the Jets lost Kris Jenkins, their stout defensive tackle, and Leon Washington, their explosive tail back to season ending injuries.
Many have complained that the Jets never shut up. Bart Scott is the best example of this. When Miami beat the Jets the first time around, Scott played down the exceptional play of the wild cat, calling it a " gimmick offense." Those words were backed up by Ryan, who called the wild cat a gimmick offense that is used in college football.
After Miami plastered the Jets last week, Scott cynically said that the Dolphins were a "Super Bowl contender." Clearly, the Jets have little respect for the Dolphins, or anyone for that matter in the AFC East. However, as the old saying goes, the Jets have a lot of bark, but little bite.
Whenever they have been faced with a stiff challenge this year, the Jets have come up snake eyes. They allowed Miami and Buffalo to pull back into the divisional race—not exactly the earmarks of a winner if you ask me.
Then, there is Sanchez.
Not only is the quarterback having trouble understanding the simple philosophy of protecting the football, he is earning the reputation as a big cry baby.
Against the Bills, Sanchez was seen sullen on sideline and looked like he was about to explode into tears during his first professional meltdown.
Against the Raiders, a game the Jets easily won 38-0, Sanchez was seen eating a hot dog on the sideline between series; not exactly the kind of professionalism that one wants from its franchise quarterback.
Finally, against the Fish last week at the Meadowlands, Sanchez was very distraught after failing to complete a potential game winning drive in the final minute. Photos of him afterwards show him crying in the arms of Braylon Edwards.
Grow up kid.
The question remains which team can be fixed the fastest in order to make a postseason run this year.
The answer is the Giants.
Their problems are not only injuries, but strategy. If Big Blue can run the football and dedicate themselves to pounding the rock, then they should be fine.
Eli Manning has to do a better job of protecting the football, and a more conservative approach would not hurt the Giants to get back on track offensively.
Defensively, the Giants will have to make do with what they have. These guys are professional football players for a reason; the back-ups on the defense have to find a way to develop good communication and chemistry with the likes of Antonio Pierce, Tuck and Osi Uminenyora if the Giants are to get anywhere. The pressure will be upfront from the Giants D', but if the secondary continues to slip, it will only make things harder for them.
The Jets are learning once again what life is like with a rookie QB. It will take two years at least for Sanchez to truly grasp what is required in the NFL—just look at Eli Manning, who Giant fans were ready to run out on a rail before he won the Super Bowl two years ago.
Like the Giants over the past few years, the Jets have a lot of good veteran talent, but they will have to wait for Sanchez to grow some more before they can truly contend.
That is easier said than done, of course, the Jets, themselves, have to at some point convince themselves that playing for 2010 is not such a bad idea.
For the past seven-plus months, Rex Ryan has preached that this team is playoff ready, right now. That is not the case and it is time for Ryan to realize that over the Jets' bye week.
Either way, things must turn around quickly for both the Jets and Giants, or we are staring at two 8-8 football teams in 2009.
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