After a week filled with both teams huffing and puffing, each trying to outdo the other with verbal barbs, it's finally time to get it on.
"We know what type of game this is," Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "It's an intense game. People are going to say what they are going to say, the jawing back and forth. You expect that and you just go with it. Whoever said what on both sides, we've got to go out there and play and prove it. That's the biggest thing."
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The Jets (8-5) and Giants (7-6) are set to collide at MetLife Stadium this afternoon, hooking up in the regular season for the first time since the Giants' 35-24 victory at Giants Stadium in 2007. The two teams clash in the regular season only once ever four years, making this easily the most meaningful game they've shared since the Jets nearly foiled the Giants' playoff chances in 1988 with a 27-21 win.
Of the two teams, the Giants are the ones staring at the real possibility of waking up Sunday morning with their stockings stuffed full of coal. They can be eliminated by a loss paired with a Cowboys' victory over the Eagles later Saturday. Should the Giants and Cowboys both win, that would set up a winner-take-all matchup with Dallas at MetLife Stadium next week.
The Jets, who are the "home" team Saturday, hold a tenuous grip on the AFC's No. 6 seed and the final wild card spot with two games to go. However, a loss wouldn't necessarily eliminate them from playoff contention.
With so much on the line for the Giants, Justin Tuck isn't into the whole "Battle of New York" theme. It doesn't matter if the Giants have beaten the Jets in their last four regular-season meetings. The defensive end is thinking more about the bigger picture for the Giants, who've lost five of their last six games.
"Playoffs," Tuck said. "I could care less about bragging rights. The last time I checked, the mayor of New York ran the city. New Jersey, Governor Christie, doesn't he have a lot to say with what goes on in New Jersey? I didn't see me making any rulings on anything. Rex Ryan, either.
Still, Eli Manning admitted there's more juice to this game given what it means to the area and each team's fan base.
"Yeah, definitely," the Giants quarterback said. "This is exciting. I've been here eight years and this is only the second time I've been a part of this. It is exciting for the New York area, for sports fans and the fact that it's at the end of the season, it's Christmas Eve and both teams need to win to get into the playoffs. A lot is on the line."
Plaxico Burress, who played four seasons with the Giants and caught the game-winning score from Manning in the Giants' Super Bowl XLII victory over the Patriots, knows a little something about the rivalry as well.
"This is an exciting game for the city and definitely for the organizations," the Jets wide receiver said. "It's basically whoever wins this game has bragging rights for the next four years, so we're going to go out and get the victory in 'JetLife' Stadium."
A win would put the Jets one step closer to a third straight postseason berth -- something that's never been accomplished in franchise history -- and help erase last Sunday's nightmarish 45-19 shellacking by the Eagles. The Jets are technically tied with the Bengals (8-6) in the conference standings but hold the current strength of victory tiebreaker, which could change over the final two contests.
"Two games left in the season with an opportunity to make the playoffs -- that's all you can ask for," linebacker Bart Scott said. "[Linebackers coach] Bob Sutton laid it out for us in the linebackers meetings: If at the beginning of the year, Roger Goodell said, 'Hey, you've got two games to win and you're in the playoffs,' would you take that deal? And everybody in there, I think, had a unanimous, 'Yes.'
"Two games to try to get to the tournament. What you've done before means nothing and it's all about what you do going forward and how we'll respond to this adversity, because there are a lot of teams in the same predicament that have to win their last two."
That's the way Ahmad Bradshaw is looking at it when it comes to his team's plight.
"We have to win to get in, this game and the next," the Giants running back said. "That's what's on my mind: winning."
With Tom Rock