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Jets, Giants build Super hopes for New York fans

NEW YORK -- Nick Mangold was getting the oil in his car changed when two mechanics got into it near the water cooler.

"One of them kept trying to talk about the Giants and the other guy kept trying to talk about the Jets," the Jets center said Monday. "It was neat to see they were both able to go back and forth because both teams are doing well at this point in the season."

Two teams, one stadium

While it's understandable that the New York/New Jersey greater metro area is in a frenzy over the possibility of a Jets- Giants matchup in Super Bowl XLIII, it also creates a scenario that forces the NFL and its network partners to discuss:

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So well, in fact, that fans are starting to spread the news: They're dreaming about a New York-New York Super Bowl, something that's never happened in the previous 42 years of the NFL's big game.

"It's a good thing for New York," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. "Obviously, the Jets are on a run and we are, too, so I am just happy for both franchises."

The Eli Manning-led Giants are the defending Super Bowl champions and are standing tall again with a 10-1 record and a six-game winning streak. Brett Favre and the soaring Jets are 8-3 and leading the AFC East after consecutive victories at New England and previously undefeated Tennessee.

"There's a lot of excitement in the air," Jets fullback Tony Richardson said. "You turn on the news and they keep talking about the Jets and the Giants, and I think the Knicks even won last night, so it's pretty cool."

Think it might be a bit premature to start planning Gang Green and Big Blue parties in Tampa? That may be true, but it's rare that both teams have been playing this well this late in a season.

"I would love for it to happen because that actually means we made the Super Bowl," Tuck said.

Added Giants offensive tackle David Diehl: "I ain't going to think about it until it gets here."

Fair enough, but the last time the Jets and Giants appeared to be on a similar course to face each other was the 1986 season. That was the year the Jets started 10-1, lost their last five regular-season games and then beat Kansas City in the first round of the playoffs before dropping a heartbreaker in two overtimes at Cleveland.

The Giants? Well, they started 5-2 and then never lost another game, beating Denver for the team's first Super Bowl title.

"We have a lot more challenges to go," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "You are sitting here at this point in the season with many, many big games to go."

The rest of the Giants' schedule isn't easy, but it's certainly manageable. They're at Washington on Sunday, followed by a home game against struggling Philadelphia, at Dallas, home vs. Carolina and then at Minnesota to finish the regular season.

"The only team we're worried about is the Giants," Diehl said.

The Jets are at home Sunday against struggling Denver, then they're at San Francisco, home for Buffalo, at Seattle and then home for Miami. An AFC East title, first-round bye and 12 wins aren't out of the question.

"A lot of people are jumping on the Jets' bandwagon," cornerback Darrelle Revis said.

While the players might be trying to avoid the buzz, the fans certainly aren't. And forget the fact that both have their headquarters in New Jersey, with the Jets in Florham Park and the Giants in East Rutherford. The prospects of a Subway Super Bowl are enough to make fans in New York, New Jersey -- heck, even Connecticut -- excited.

"Usually, I don't get stopped out in public too often, but a couple of people in the mall just now were coming up to me," Revis said. "I was surprised because people usually don't just come out of the blue when you're just walking and come up to you and say, 'You guys are on a roll."'

Richardson had some trouble with his truck after the team returned from Nashville on Sunday night, and brought it to a service station to be repaired.

"There was an older man in there and he had on this old, crinkled up Jets hat," Richardson said. "I asked him, 'Are you a Jets fan?' He was like, 'I am now. I haven't pulled my hat out in a long time and it's pretty exciting now."'

The Giants have consistently dominated opponents this season, with their loss at Cleveland six weeks ago their only hiccup. Manning has continued to play with the poise that helped him become a championship-caliber quarterback, and the Giants' three-headed running back tandem of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw -- "Earth, Wind & Fire" -- leads the NFL in rushing.

The Giants also have the fifth-best defense in the league, with Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka seamlessly taking over on the defensive line for the retired Michael Strahan and injured Osi Umenyiora.

"It's kind of the way this team has developed in terms of the talent we have and the ability of the guys to say, 'OK, we have to play at a higher level and the next guy that comes in has to do the job,"' Coughlin said.

The Giants are even more inclined to not daydream about a return trip to the Super Bowl because of what they experienced last year. They were mediocre for much of the second half of the season, and then came one of the greatest postseason runs in NFL history.

"If you look at where this team was at this time last year, nobody was expecting us to go all the way to the Super Bowl," Kiwanuka said. "We understand how long a haul it really is."

The Jets are saying the same cautious phrases. After making lots of noise in the offseason by signing high-priced free agents and acquiring Favre, they appeared to be the epitome of a win-now team.

Well, winning is exactly what they've been doing, with Favre efficiently leading long scoring drive after long scoring drive while keeping the mistakes that plagued him earlier this season to a minimum.

The Jets' "Pow & Later" tandem of the powerful Thomas Jones, who's having his best start as a pro while leading the AFC in rushing, and the speedy and elusive Leon Washington have forced defenses to account for their leg work.

"Brett and the offense are doing a great job," Revis said. "The offensive line, as well, they're opening holes for Thomas Jones and Leon to run. They're giving Brett time to throw. I think yesterday was the first game that I ever played in where I sat for most of the game."

The defense has also been dramatically improved by space-eating nose tackle Kris Jenkins, whose dominance has had a huge ripple effect. The Jets are ranked third in the league against the run, and haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher all season.

"The excitement is very high right now," Revis said. "Both teams are doing great, we're in the city of New York and everything is going good for us."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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