What’s the state of the Jets-Giants rivalry heading into this year’s 48th annual summer soirée? Some years the heat seems to be higher, some years coolness prevails. This year the rivalry feels to be in cold storage, which is a good thing for both the Jets, under second-year head coach Todd Bowles, and the Giants, under first-year coach Ben McAdoo as each side goes about the business of getting ready for its own regular-season road ahead.
But Darrelle Revis said the rivalry’s still there for him. “I think it’s always a New York event,” Revis said. “And we both play hard because we want to win and we want the braggin’ rights. We both get after it and play a little bit tougher in this third preseason game.”
Here are seven points to ponder before the Saturday 7:30 p.m. kickoff for the sixth MetLife Bowl:
1. What Home Field Advantage?
The Jets lead the summer series that began in 1969 by 25-21-1. Similarly, the battle for the MetLife Bowl trophy has tilted the Jets’ way, 3-2. Oddly, though, in the eight games combined the MetLife co-tenants have played each other since their stadium opened in 2010, the Jets are 0-4 when they’re the home team vs. the Giants, 4-0 when they’re the road team. With the Jets the hosts for this one, the time is right to break that streak.
2. FitzMagic Time
Ryan Fitzpatrick is not one to panic, but he has noted his offense’s fast-start issues this summer and particularly last week vs. the Redskins: “The good thing is we still have a little bit of time to iron things out. The bad thing is we didn’t play as crisp or as clean as maybe we should have.” Playing the Giants could be a good omen for the “O”. In the first and second games the past two preseasons combined, the first offense has two touchdowns on 12 drives. Against the Giants last summer, Fitz & Co. had two TDs on five drives — with both coming on the Beard’s first two scoring passes in his new green and white uniform.
3. Seeking Balance
The offense at Washington was about as unbalanced as you can get with 51 dropbacks to nine runs — the Jets have played only one game, regular or preseason, since the Sixties with fewer rushes. We would expect balance to return with the anticipated Jets game debut of Matt Forté, then the appearance of a few of the less-visible backs such as Khiry Robinson, Lache Seastrunk and Antone Smith. There are eight backs on the depth chart. Needless to say, not all will make it through the final cutdown.
4. “Snacks” Easing into NFC East
It will have been quite the summer trip down memory lane for Damon “Snacks” Harrison, since the Giants’ preseason schedule features four games against the AFC East. Last week it was a trip to Buffalo to play the team coached by Rex Ryan — who bestowed Harrison’s nickname on him. Saturday it’s a run-in with his first NFL team. For four years, C Nick Mangold and the O-line had to deal with Harrison only during training camps. Now they’ll try to keep him at bay and get their ground game up and running.
5. Cruz Control Needed
Will Victor “Tune In” Cruz, he of the sore groin, team up with Odell Beckham Jr. in this one? Looks that way, so Darrelle Revis, Busterin Skrine and the Jets secondary have to be saddled up. Beckham had six catches for 149 yards and a 72-yard TD vs. the Jets last Dec. 6, and Cruz, need we remind Jets fans, had the 99-yd TD catch-and-run in ’11 and the three-TD second-half scorching of the Green & White in the 2010 “New Meadowlands Stadium” preseason opener.
6. Pepper’s Recipe for Success
Pepper Johnson’s been through this Jets-Giants Meadowlands thing before — he started his playing career with seven years in blue, finished it with two seasons as the man in the middle of the Jets D, and is in his second year coaching up the Green & White D-line. His sage advice to his room is not to worry about personal highlight videos. Says Pep: “Someone’s individual accomplishment is fine and dandy, but what did we do as a group and as a unit? That carries more weight. I’ve seen a lot more championships won that way.”
7. Kicking Intrigue
It’s worth watching the PKs in this one. For the Jets, Nick Folk has a leg up on rookie Ross Martin, who’s 2-for-4 on FGs and hit the upright on a PAT vs. the ‘Skins. Meanwhile, the Giants have added Randy Bullock, last year’s capable second-half fill-in for the injured Folk, to Josh Brown, who lost a camp battle to Folk in 2013. Brown will be suspended for the Giants’ RS opener but Bullock plans on staying longer: “They told me I was here to compete and the best guy would stick around. That’s how I’m taking it.” Remember December? Bullock’s 31-yard make put the Jets up 23-20 in OT and Brown’s 48-yard miss secured the comeback win over the Giants.