Skip to main content

Jets, Giants suddenly trending up: Two contenders in New York?

At the quarter mark of the NFL season, the New York Jets and New York Giants are still living, breathing, winning and possibly -- possibly -- on their way to being contending football teams.

And if you don't think that's news around here, then you probably haven't been paying attention lately to Gang Green and Big Blue, to Fireman Ed (he's back) or Tom Coughlin's jumping jacks (we'll get to that).

The Jets and Giants -- who share MetLife Stadium -- both won on the road Sunday, the Jets over the Dolphins in London, the Giants against the Bills in Orchard Park.

That alone is relatively significant. It marked the first time this year -- and only the fifth time in their past 36 games, dating to the beginning of the 2013 season -- that the Jets and Giants won in the same NFL week.

Break out the bubbly.

The Jets, who won their season opener in 2014 then dropped eight games in a row, are getting it done with a new coaching staff led by Todd Bowles, who likes Chips Ahoy cookies and Gladys Knight's music, but really likes winning. The Jets are 3-1 for the first time since 2010, which is the last time they finished with an above-.500 record or made the playoffs.

The reaction of the 51-year-old Bowles as his team enters its bye week? Typically stoic, almost understated, with his eyes downfield.

"We understand that we've only played one quarter of the season and all we did was get off to a good start," he said. "We haven't accomplished anything, and we know we have a lot of work to do, and our mindset is such."

Two veterans who've become invaluable for the Jets were acquired in March trades: wide receiver Brandon Marshall (along with a seventh-round pick) came from the Bears for a fifth-rounder, and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick came from the Texans for a conditional late-rounder.

Marshall, so far, seems happy and has given the Jets the kind of receiver they haven't had since at least Keyshawn Johnson and perhaps Al Toon. Fitzpatrick got the job by default when Geno Smith was punched in his own locker room, and the veteran QB has been a steadying influence, to say the least. A Harvard graduate, Fitzpatrick has ascended to near cult hero within the training facility. When leaving for London last Thursday, Eric Decker wore a green "Fitzmagic" T-shirt, featuring a Jets helmet and Fitzpatrick's beard:

Mostly, and importantly for the Jets, Fitzpatrick is an adult. None of this, whatever it becomes, will be too big for him. He has been largely effective in getting the ball to Marshall and Decker, both big targets and savvy route-runners, and handing it off to running back Chris Ivory, a human sledgehammer. That quartet has seen a combined 33 NFL seasons, including this one.

"It's a lot of fun to be in the huddle with such experienced guys," Fitzpatrick said. "All of them have the right look in their eye."

As for the Giants, they were nearly left for dead after two mind-boggling, largely self-inflicted-wound losses to start the season. As you've probably heard, they became the first team in NFL history to start 0-2 after leading both games by 10-plus points in the fourth quarter.

Once Coughlin's inspirational goal, "Finish" quickly became a desperate plea. When the Giants were facing a short week -- it helped that their Week 3 Thursday night game was at home, against the Redskins -- and negativity was swirling, Coughlin remained positive and encouraging, according to players. He told them they were good enough. He pointed out that the NFC East is a mess, though his characterization was likely more eloquent.

And he did jumping jacks in front of his players in the team auditorium.

"I would say he's come in with more energy, more enthusiasm," linebacker Jon Beason said. "The guy is 69 years old [and] it's a joy to see how much he loves to do what he does and how much of a competitor he is. It's easy to go out and fight for a guy like that."

Said Coughlin: "Whether the energy level came up from whatever level it was, I don't know about that. But I do know that it put some fire in our belly to be 0-2. I didn't think we were an 0-2 team, and we needed to do something about it."

The Giants lost six games in a row to start the 2013 season and dropped seven consecutive games in the middle of last year. They remain without three of their four highest-salaried players due to injury: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, WR Victor Cruz and LT Will Beatty.

Inside the locker room, there is the belief by the Giants that they should be 4-0, that they are good enough.

They are an interesting group, particularly on defense. The G-Men stop the run better than anyone (yielding just 69.8 rushing yards per game) ... but give up more passing yards than anyone (316.2 passing yards per game), don't blitz effectively and don't have much of an organic pass rush.

"It's been done before [with a] no-name defense," veteran defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins said. He added, "We don't look at ourselves like that."

Eli Manning has reformed his turnover-prone ways; he's thrown just one interception on the season. The run game has been spotty and there were just four healthy receivers on the roster before the team added Myles White from the practice squad Wednesday. It helps, of course, that one of those wideouts is Odell Beckham Jr., who now has played a full 16 NFL games and done so with unprecedented production for a newbie (115 catches, 1,612 yards, 14 TDs over that span).

The Giants' win in Buffalo was defined by two physical marvels: Rashad Jennings' tackle-breaking, stiff-arm-serving, 51-yard catch-and-run touchdown, and a goal-line stand in the fourth quarter where six different players were credited with touchdown-saving tackles.

"We don't have any quit in us," said defensive end Kerry Wynn, who had one of those tackles. "We never back down, no matter what."

Coughlin has convinced his players that they are relevant in a wide-open division. To a defense that is willing to play hard, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo preaches relentlessness. Maybe for now, for these Giants, that's enough.

It's October and there will be football that matters at MetLife Stadium. For now, that's enough, too.

Follow Kimberly Jones on Twitter @KimJonesSports

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content