Saturday's faceoff between the Giants and Jets has captivated our football-loving city, which is being told
ad infinitum that victory - or defeat - will mean everything for both teams.
The loser's season will be within an inch of six feet under; the winner will be one more triumph from a playoff appearance.
But what happens after that? Either one of these two flawed pack-chasers will have trouble intimidating whomever it draws, should it reach the wild-card round.
There's no question that New York's squads have enough highlights to create a crowd-pleasing spectacle at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. on FOX). But beneath each bright spot glares a lowlight.
The Giants (7-7) are as thrilling as they are prone to losing (five of their past six games). Eli Manning, who has thrown an NFL-best 15 passes for more than 40 yards, is exceeding his own high standards. He also has first-rate targets in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, who nevertheless have a penchant for drops, deflections and poor decisions. The team's last-ranked running game can't compensate for those.
With the Jets (8-6), the passing game also exceeds the running game - a fact that has diluted Rex Ryan's winning formula (four playoff wins in two years). Plaxico Burress scores a touchdown from Mark Sanchez on nearly one in every four catches, an astounding ratio. At times, both Jets stars have also played terribly. Even cornerback Darrelle Revis occasionally has been flummoxed.
The Jets' highest-impact player is center Nick Mangold, who overcame an ankle injury to help revive the Jets' running game. For the Giants, that man is do-everything defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, whose 131?2 sacks rank fourth in the NFL. What's more, JPP's combined tackles (76) exceed by 16 the total of any other defender among the league's top 22 sack artists. And yet Pierre-Paul's extraordinary season has been consistently betrayed by the Giants' easily confused pass coverage.
Almost every year, an NFL team shores up its faults suddenly enough to make a run at the Super Bowl. Barring a tie - which would somehow seem appropriate - Saturday's result will sink the Giants or the Jets weeks before either team can contemplate such an unlikely turnaround.
Max J. Dickstein (@amNYsports or email@example.com) is amNewYork's sports editor.