BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Who would’ve thought this?
Your New York Jets and your New York Giants are in a position to win their respective divisions with eight games to go. Reread that sentence and marinate on it.
Did anyone really think they would be in the position they are in when the season started? Not even both teams can script this. Both teams hoped for the best.
The Jets hoped their young talent would put something together this season with the idea they are on the upswing. The Giants wanted to build a foundation. No one thought about the playoffs at the time.
Here we are in November, both teams are playing for something. This is a change from when both teams were playing out the season at this time for a long time. This is so foreign. We can get used to this, right?
Both teams exceeded expectations to the point now fans expect playoffs. This is a great thing for both teams. It’s what fans and players want at this time of the year, which is playing meaningful games. We will get that here for the first time in eons.
The Jets have a shot to win the AFC East. They could lead the division with a win against the hated New England Patriots on Sunday at Foxborough with the Miami Dolphins on a bye. By winning Sunday, they can control their own destiny as far as their chances to win the division.
It won’t be easy, though. They have five remaining road games featuring the Patriots, Minnesota Vikings, Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks and Miami Dolphins. Their season finale against the Dolphins on the road could make or break their playoff or division chances. On the flip side, the Jets are 4-0 on the road. But make no mistake. The competition gets harder here, including a trip out West.
The Jets will face three beatable teams in the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars at home. Those three wins have to be a must for them to win the division.
There’s a reason to be optimistic about them. They boast the best defense in football featuring rookie Ahmad Gardner, who is a game-changer with his 44 tackles, 13 pass breakups, and two interceptions. The Jets defensive line creates havoc on the quarterback. Their offense has been efficient for the most part due to their running game, even with Breece Hall out for the season with an ACL tear. They have been well-coached, too.
The Jets get better and better every game. This is a team that knows how to win. It showed by their road record and winning five of six heading to the Patriots game. This has to be a good feeling for second-year Jets head coach Robert Saleh.
Jets fans know a good team when they see one. This is a team that has talent from guys like Gardner, Jermaine Johnson, Garrett Wilson, Elijah Moore, Denzel Mims and Braxton Berrios. This is a step up in class from previous Jets teams. There’s a reason to be optimistic now and in the future.
The Giants are 7-2. Sure, they beat no one great. No matter. They shouldn’t apologize for being the worst 7-2 ever. This is a team that lost to bad teams in recent years. This is a team that has been poorly coached and poorly run for a long time. Giants head coach Brian Daboll and Giants general manager Joe Schoen brought credibility and order to a franchise that needed it.
No one has any idea how far they will go, but it doesn’t matter. Giants fans should enjoy this. It beats the alternative. They are actually playing for something. They can win the NFC East. They are a game behind the Philadelphia Eagles for first place and a game behind the NFC No. 1 seed.
The Giants can control their division destiny by beating the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, Eagles twice and Washington Commanders twice. If they do that, no one can take away from their accomplishment.
With excellent coaching, the Giants have a shot to win in division play that can help them win the division.
The Jets completed their bye week and now they have an exciting eight-game stretch. After a meeting with the Detroit Lions, the Giants get a diet of NFC teams for four weeks followed by a meeting with the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis.
The stakes get higher as we head into crunch time. This is what we hoped from our NFL teams when the season started. It’s here, and it should renew our appreciation for what they did all season to get to this point.
It’s not going to be easy. It shouldn’t be. It has to be earned. The Giants and Jets will now get to show how good they really are by trying to sustain this. It’s a challenge both teams are ready to relish.
This should be the fun part of the football season where teams play for a bye, home-field advantage, playoff-seeding and division crown. The Giants and Jets can do all that now. It’s what a football fan wants, and we are going to get that in our town this year.
This is progress indeed after our teams played out the season for far too long.
This writer can be reached on Twitter: @LeslieMonteiro6