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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

New York, New York's biggest rivalry week since 1988

Phil Simms threw three TD passes but was

Phil Simms threw three TD passes but was sacked eight times, three by Ken Rose (shown here) as the Giants lost in the final minute to the Jets, 27-21 on Dec. 18, 1988. Credit: Newsday/Paul J. Bereswill

If you remember the East Coast version of the Giants-Dodgers rivalry, well, congrats on reaching age 65 (at least)! And many happy returns.

For the rest of us, though, New York-area sports rivalries are a peculiar animal, one often lacking in pure hatred.

With the exception of sporadic Rangers-Islanders episodes -- notably in the middle-to-late 1970s -- pro teams' mutual dislike around here usually is limited by interstate geography or interleague/interconference separation or by one or both teams stinking at any given time.

"Rivalries" such as Giants-Jets and Mets-Yankees tend to be felt more by fans and the news media than by the participants, outside the occasional Subway Series moment.

That being said, this week will be unique in the annals of regular-season New York sports, a trio of intra-area matchups that has not occurred in such a short time span since 1988 -- or ever, really, if you consider only teams based in the five boroughs.

Let's start at the end with the most important and compelling event, Sunday's once-every-four-years meeting between the Jets and Giants, this time with the Giants hosting at MetLife Stadium and, as in 2011, both teams in contention.

Remember 2011? All that Christmas Eve game produced was one of the biggest regular-season plays in New York football history: Victor Cruz's 99-yard TD catch that helped send the Giants to a Super Bowl and the Jets to oblivion. Cruz is on IR now and then-Jets coach Rex Ryan is in Buffalo. But the rematch could well generate drama of its own, given the stakes for both teams. The loser will be in dire straits entering the final four weekends of the season; the winner still will have work to do.

It certainly is a timely week for the regular-season version of the annual preseason "Snoopy Bowl," what with ABC celebrating the 50th anniversary of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on Monday night.

(Not to mention Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. wearing one Charlie Brown-themed shoe and one Snoopy-themed one during warm-ups Sunday.)

Before the football fun, the appetizer Wednesday will be the Rangers' first regular-season visit to Brooklyn to face the Islanders, who now share a city with them rather than playing in the eastern suburbs.

The Islanders' attendance has been lackluster, but they are certain to attract a full house, just as they did when the Rangers visited Nassau Coliseum in olden times.

Everyone will be listening closely to hear just how much of Barclays Center is taken over by Rangers fans.

Next up, on Friday, the Manhattan Porzingises host the Nets in a rivalry that was supposed to heat up once the Nets moved to Brooklyn in 2012 but so far remains on a modest simmer. The Knicks and Nets currently have losing records, which doesn't help.

The last time those six teams matched up in one week was in mid-December 1988, at a time when the Nets still were in New Jersey and the Islanders still in Nassau County.

The Knicks beat the Nets, 121-100, at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 13; the Rangers beat the Islanders, 2-1, at the Garden on Dec. 14, and the Jets beat the Giants, 27-21, at Giants Stadium on Dec. 18.

One of those venues doesn't even exist anymore and one of them was remodeled in recent summers.

That Jets-Giants matchup -- the biggest regular-season one before the 2011 and 2015 games -- is recalled for Ken O'Brien's 5-yard touchdown pass to Al Toon with 37 seconds left.

It effectively knocked the Giants out of playoff contention. Despite a 10-6 record, they were eliminated that night when the Rams beat the 49ers, who had nothing to play for.

During the game, Newsday's Peter King called Giants quarterback Phil Simms, who famously lamented that he was "watching the 49ers lay down like dogs."

To this day, Simms insists he did not realize he was being quoted publicly, but his sentiment was on target. The Rams won, 38-16. The 49ers went on to beat the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII in January.

But all that happened a long time ago, before John Tavares, Kristaps Porzingis and Odell Beckham Jr. were born.

New York is due for some new intramural memories. No time like the present.

New York Sports