I almost wrote this post a week ago, but thought that I may be overreacting. Not the case. Before the start of football nine days ago, the New York Giants, 6-2, coming off a huge victory over the New England Patriots, controlled their own destiny for the number two overall seed in the National Football Conference. Their co-tenants at Met Life Stadium, the New York Jets, fresh off a dominant victory over the Buffalo Bills, controlled their own destiny to win the AFC East. Nine days later, both teams have lost two in a row, and both teams would be on the outside of the playoffs looking in if they began today.
The biggest problem the Giants are suffering this season is their inability to run the football. Only the Tennessee Titans have ran for less yards, 773, than the Giants, 832. To put that in perspective, seven running backs lead the Giants in rushing yards. Since the injury to Ahmad Bradshaw Sunday, October 30, 2011, an already struggling running attack has gotten worse. Giants running back Brandon Jacobs has combined for 148 yards in the three games he has started since the Bradshaw injury, including a 21-yard effort Sunday in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Though many have praised Giants quarterback Eli Manning for his play this season, he has had several key turnovers late in games that decided the outcome. The Giants will not make the playoffs if those two offensive problems don’t improve.
The Giants have also lost to three teams with records under .500, a sign that points to their tendency to play down to the level of their competition. While they do have the ability to play up to their competition as well, they have perhaps the most difficult schedule remaining in the entire NFL. The Giants travel to play the 7-3 New Orleans Saints, then host the 10-0 Green Bay Packers. Next up is a match up with division rival the Dallas Cowboys in Texas, then a match up at home with the Washington Redskins. The Giants finish with a game against the Jets, then host the Cowboys in the season finale. If they split these six games, will 9-7 get the Giants to the playoffs? Should they be expected to go 4-2 in this stretch to finish at 10-6? I think that is unrealistic, thus, they will probably miss the playoffs.
The New York Jets, meanwhile, got embarrassed at home by the New England Patriots on Sunday, November 13, 2011, then got embarrassed again by Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos four days later. The problems of the New York Jets aren’t as easy to diagnose as the problems of the New York Giants, as they have significantly more, starting with their third-year quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Sanchez has struggled this season. His 79.9 quarterback rating ranks him 19th in the NFL, and his 57.1 completion percentage, 14 touchdowns, and 13 turnovers (10 interceptions, three fumbles) simply will not get the job done. He also routinely fails to connect on passes that should be thrown more accurately by an NFL quarterback. The Jets need to rely on Sanchez more because their running game is simply not getting the job done. The 966 rushing yards the Jets have amassed is good for 25th in the NFL. The combination of Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson are simply not playing up to their expectations.
The ‘great’ Rex Ryan defense for the New York Jets is in the second half, 17, in the league against the run, allowing 1,169 yards on the season thus far. Their overall defense is seventh overall, good, but certainly not great. If the defense of the Jets, particularly cornerback Darrelle Revis, weren’t playing as well as they have been, who knows where they would be in the standings? 4-6? 3-7?
The Jets host the Buffalo Bills Sunday, then travel to face the Washington Redskins. After, they host the Kansas City Chiefs, then travel down the New Jersey Turnpike to face the Philadelphia Eagles, then ‘host’ the Giants before finishing the season down in Florida to face the Miami Dolphins.
There is still hope for both the Jets and the Giants, but they have eliminated their margins of error, and whereas eight days ago, fans of the teams were dreaming of a Super Bowl run, at this point in the season, making the playoffs for either team would be a major accomplishment given the roads they have ahead of them.