Jets head coach Robert Saleh, left, and Giants head coach Brian...

Jets head coach Robert Saleh, left, and Giants head coach Brian Daboll, right, meet on the field before an NFL preseason game on Aug. 26 at MetLife Stadium. Credit: AP

Saquon Barkley knows New York well enough to understand what will happen soon after Sunday night’s opening game against the Cowboys is over.

“The media and everyone on the outside, win or lose, is going to overreact no matter what,” he said. “But for us, I don’t see it as that. I don’t think Coach [Brian Daboll] would even allow that. I don’t see the players in this locker room having that mindset. We take it day by day, one game at a time, one play at a time.”

If nothing else, Daboll certainly has done a great job of hammering home that measured approach to his players.

“Every game is important in this league,” Daboll said. “You only get 17 of them. You don't get 162 or anything like that. Every game is a one-game season, and when you're done playing that game, whether you win, lose or draw, you move on to the next week.”

The Jets are taking a similarly chill approach to their Monday opener against the Bills.

“I’ve joked up here a few times, it’s not the Catalina Wine Mixer,” Robert Saleh said this week, a reference to the hugely important helicopter expo from the comedy film “Step Brothers.” “It’s Week 1. Whether we win or lose isn’t going to make or break the season.”

Usually that’s probably true.

This year it is not.

They are all completely wrong.

The Giants and Jets are spewing falsehoods. If they are doing so in an attempt to convince themselves that these are “just another game” games and contain their own bubbling emotions, that’s fine.

But they can’t fool us.

After they have spent every ounce of energy and every available resource for the past seven months bringing us along on the journey, riding the waves of quarterback trade talks and contract negotiations, maneuvering through potential holdouts with their top players,  making trades and eliminating pieces that simply did not fit, now, as it is all about to actually matter, they want to tell us to cool our raging expectations a little bit?

No way!

Despite those fire-extinguishing declarations from the teams, we are about to embark on the most important, exciting, potentially narrative-shifting and franchise-defining 28 or so hours in the history of MetLife Stadium. It will begin with the Giants kicking off Sunday night, be followed by the scampering effort to overhaul the aesthetics of the field and building,  lead into Monday night’s kickoff for the Jets, and culminate sometime between 11:30 or midnight when that game ends.

At that point we’ll know.

We’ll know what these teams are and if all of those efforts were worth it.

Yes, there will be 16 more regular-season games for each of them. And in a normal season, that would be the prevailing thought.

But this, as we well know, is no normal year.

This is the year the Giants are trying to close the gap on their division rivals, and they just so happen to open their season against one they have beaten only once in their last 12 meetings. If they can’t top Dallas in Week 1, what was it all for? They made the playoffs last season while winning only one of their six NFC East games. That is not a sustainable plan for success.

This is the year the Jets are shooting for it all and finally have a quarterback who has the potential to deliver it. When we get to December and January, there is a good chance we’ll be looking back at this September game against Buffalo to see who wins the division, who gets the home playoff game that comes with that honor, and possibly even who gets the first-round bye. 

These are not must-win games in the sense that neither team will be able to attain its goal without a victory. Based on recent history, of course, wins certainly will help. Since 2002, when the NFL expanded to 32 clubs, teams that win their opening game are more than twice as likely to make the playoffs (52.7%) as those who do not (24.7).

It’s certainly hard to imagine last year’s Giants season taking the same course if they’d lost their opener in Tennessee, never mind the mathematical impact of their record having one fewer win.

So no, the season will not be over for either team in the event of a loss.

The buzz they’ve worked so hard to generate will be, though.

That’s why these games are must-wins toward the daunting chore of showing the world that things have changed, that there is no Same Old for either of them, that the 2023 season will be what we have been expecting it to be since very shortly after the previous season ended:

Different. Drastically and gloriously different.

They’ll go through this Sunday-Monday home two-step again in a few weeks, flip-flopping the nights, with the Jets hosting Kansas City on Oct. 1 before the Giants welcome Seattle on Oct. 2. By that point, though, we’ll know — or at least we’ll have a pretty good idea — what we’ve got from our pair of potential contenders.

They’ll be important games, certainly, and will have an impact on the perceptions and plans of both squads. But they won’t have the juice this weekend will bring.

And yes, the Jets and Giants will face each other at the end of October. That game certainly figures to have a lot riding on it.

But really, the only way the significance of this weekend’s two-day New York footballpalooza can be topped is if they both somehow manage to host playoff games in mid-January. That’d mean a likely pair of division champions in our midst. Bonkers.

Then there exists the slimmest of possibilities for the ultimate East Rutherford extravaganza.

Can you imagine the loopiness, never mind the logistics, that would come from dueling AFC and NFC Championship Games held at MetLife Stadium in late January?

The building has hosted only one postseason game by a New York team since it opened in 2010, so let’s not be jumping ahead too far.

Then again, if both teams are 1-0 when Week 1 ends . . .  why not?

That’s what this first slate of games can give us, and, like it or not, admit it or not, give the Giants and Jets too:

A license to dream.

Really, can there be anything more important at stake than that?


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