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After watching the Giants get thoroughly dispatched by a much better team last night, and seeing the Jets barely squeak by a team that lost its best player this week, it is pretty apparent that there is not much hope for either team this season. Reality caught up with both squads: plain and simple, neither is good enough.
But that does not mean the season is over. Yes, the Giants and Jets are behind about four teams for playoff spots in their respective conferences, but there’s a lot of football left to be played. Sort of.
For the Giants, the key to making the postseason will be beating the Cowboys, at least once and most likely twice. It’s been done before – the Giants swept the Cowboys as recently as 2009, although those games were played about two months apart. Last year, the teams split their two games, which were played within a span of three weeks. It’s the same story this year, as the Giants are in Dallas in Week 14 and close out against them just 22 days later in Jersey. During that three week span, the Giants will not leave New York – they play at home against the Redskins, “away” against the Jets, and then home again to end the season.
Maybe that’s a benefit, maybe not. If the Giants’ losing skid extends to four games this weekend, and it almost certainly will, they will need to win out in order to have a chance at winning the division. Barring collapses from the Falcons, Bears, Lions, et al, that looks like it’s the only way we’ll get a chance to see Big Blue lose on Wild Card Weekend.
As for the Jets, who really screwed themselves against the Broncos last Thursday and managed to barely squeak by this week. The next five games on the docket – @Skins, Chiefs, @Eagles, Giants, @Dolphins – can be read in two different ways. To one extent, those are five games the Jets should win. They are better than every team except the Giants, and even that is unclear given how schizophrenic the Giants can look. Going against Rex Grossman, Tyler Palko (or Kyle Orton) and Vince Young in consecutive weeks should be feasting time for the Jets D. Closing against a Dolphins team playing for pride only is strangely reminiscent of the Mets’ collapses against terrible Florida Marlins teams, but let’s not mix our sports meltdowns quite yet.
Long story short, the Jets have a much easier road to the playoffs, schedule-wise. In fact, if they can finish with a better record than Denver, they only have to leapfrog a Bengals team playing above it’s head with a rookie QB that finishes with games against Pittsburgh, Baltimore and a probable playoff-bound Texans team. That could be three losses for Cincy, and a huge opportunity for the Jets.
Winning out looks like the only option for either NY team. Win streaks happen; the Jets had a three-game streak this year and the Giants had two three-game streaks. But another loss for either side is a big, rusty nail in the 2011 coffin.
In the end, playoff berths for both teams come down to two factors: is either team actually good enough to win out, and which team is better than the other?
In truth, neither team is very good. They are basically .500 squads, maybe 9-7. The upper limit for this Jets team may be higher at this point, but that’s only because of a weaker closing schedule. I have a feeling that when the two teams meet in Week 16, the game will end in a 24-24 tie with both quarterbacks throwing for 3 TDs and 2 INTs and both punt returners fumbling and neither run game cracking the 50 yard mark and at least one stupid fight between Brandon Jacobs and Bart Scott. These teams are mirror images, both underachieving, both unable to raise their game to the level of their opponent except under extraordinary circumstances – the Patriots game for NYG, the do-or-die Bills game this weekend for NYJ – and both destined to watch less talented teams play the first week of the playoffs.
As long as the Patriots don’t win the Super Bowl, I think everyone will still feel pretty OK about the 2011 season.