Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers (8) takes the field before an...

Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers (8) takes the field before an NFL preseason football game against the Giants, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023. Credit: AP/Adam Hunger

Aaron Rodgers and Daniel Jones chatted amiably on the MetLife Stadium field a few hours before the Jets and Giants kicked off on Saturday night, a pair of eights that New York metropolitan area football fans hope can develop into a royal flush for at least one of the two franchises.

Only one of them had to leave the conversation to prepare for his upcoming night of work. Rodgers was making his preseason debut for the Jets. Jones was idle for the evening.

Jets coach Robert Saleh, who had been sprinting up and down the stairs in the lower bowl earlier in the day, hugged Giants coach Brian Daboll, who might have difficulty with a single flight of them. They spoke for several minutes with the neighborly ease that two lawnmowing suburban dads might enjoy on a sunny summer day such as this one.

Throughout the stands, clusters of blue jerseys mixed with green ones like cupcake sprinkles in a jar. There might have been some friendly back-and-forths, a few jabs and some jawing, as there will always be between the two concurrent universes, but nothing too serious.

For a few hours, the Giants and Jets mingled, their official and unofficial representatives in the same place at the same time for what has become an annual August gathering.

This year more than many in recent memory, though, had the chill vibe of a picnic rather than a preseason game. Even the early personal fouls and shoves between players — including one from Rodgers after he’d heard enough from Giants linebacker Jihad Ward — seemed to lack actual animosity. The Giants couldn’t even be goaded into playing the majority of their starters by Rodgers’ much-ballyhooed debut or the presence of the other Jets first-stringers.

It never matters who wins and who loses, but this time it really felt as if the outcome was an afterthought. Throw some passes, make some tackles and get everyone of significance to walk off the field healthy in the end. Those were the shared goals.

With apologies to the folks on the rosters’ fringes who came away wounded, it was accomplished.

The reason for such a breezy ambience?

Because things are about to get very real very quickly for both of these teams.

In case you haven’t noticed, this isn’t a normal football season we are fast approaching. Both franchises have high expectations, which is always the case, but this time both have a realistic chance of meeting them.

For the next few months, the Giants and Jets will be dueling for the football soul of the city. Fans will be gauging their successes and failures not only against other teams in their own divisions but against the other team in their own stadium. As much as Jets fans will delight in their team’s wins, they will revel in the Giants’ hardships. Giants fans, too, will be rooting for their own squad while eagerly waiting for the hype balloon of an organization that hasn’t won a trophy in more than 50 years to pop.

This is one of the occasional seasons in which they will meet for a regular-season game, gathering again in the same place on Oct. 29, but that Sunday will serve as just the head-to-head clash. That it takes place just before the NFL schedule starts to veer toward crunch time, when the haves begin to separate themselves from the have-nots, will amplify the attention it receives. But in reality, the two franchises will be partaking in a week-to-week jostle for the favor, attention, angst and adulation of the area.

And the further the two teams go into the season with their potentials intact, the crazier it is all sure to become.

New York is about to become the epicenter of the football cosmos, but only one of the two teams can get top billing.

The Jets have had the early advantage as headline-generators, but that will last only until the actual games begin. After that, what happens on the field will determine the direction in which our eyes dart.

There are some seasons when this exhibition between the Giants and the Jets does carry some significance. It certainly did when they first met in 1969. The Jets, coming off their Super Bowl III victory that upset the established hierarchy of professional football, crushed the Giants that August behind three touchdown passes from Joe Namath at the Yale Bowl to further upset the local balances.

That game meant so much to both organizations that shortly thereafter, coach Allie Sherman was fired by the Giants . . . with just one week to go until the regular season began!

Surely both Saleh and Daboll will survive this iteration.

There have been others that carried more weight than mere exhibitions usually do, too. Stars have been made (undrafted rookie Victor Cruz’s three-touchdown game against the Jets in 2010 launched his career) and lost (Jason Sehorn’s ill-fated kickoff return in 1998 essentially ended his). Seasons have been altered, as in 2003, when Jets quarterback Chad Pennington suffered a broken and dislocated left wrist, and 2013, when Mark Sanchez, inexplicably playing in the fourth quarter, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury that led to Geno Smith’s rookie season as the starter.

Blood has been shed, such as when Eli Manning took a wallop that opened a red geyser on his forehead in 2010, the first game at MetLife Stadium. And every time Rex Ryan was involved in this annual game, it seemed as if the two teams were locked in an epic battle of good versus evil . . . and it was hard to say which side Ryan saw himself on.

The stakes were never actually that high, though, even if they were manipulated into appearing so.

There certainly was no such effort to fabricate any friction on Saturday. This was a friendly endeavor.

Soon enough, though.

Soon enough and it will all be here for real.

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