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To Jets, winning 'Snoopy Bowl' is peanuts

New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick looks to

New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick looks to pass in an NFL preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. Photo Credit: Steven Ryan

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The exasperated looks and the forced smiles said it all.

The much-hyped "Snoopy Bowl" -- the annual Jets-Giants preseason game at MetLife Stadium -- has lost its luster around these parts, and Todd Bowles' Jets are having a particularly difficult time feigning interest in the topic.

"I've heard a little bit about the 'Snoopy' trophy. But before coming here, I had not heard about it," first-year Jet Ryan Fitzpatrick said Thursday when asked about Saturday night's game.

Pressed further on the subject, Fitzpatrick could do nothing else but offer this straight-faced response: "I'm really excited."

Fitzpatrick's fake enthusiasm drew laughs from reporters, but it also highlighted the cosmic shift that has taken place behind closed doors.

The Jets -- a franchise that once sacrificed its starting quarterback, Mark Sanchez, in hopes of hoisting the Snoopy Bowl trophy after a meaningless preseason game -- are no longer focused on retaining bragging rights in their shared state. Instead, Bowles has his players focused on long-term gains rather than preseason-game accomplishments.

"We've got bigger goals than playing the New York Giants in preseason," right guard Willie Colon said after the Jets' final training camp practice of the summer. "We've got to see them in the regular season.

"Right now, we want to get off to a fast start, we want to not beat ourselves penalty-wise and we want to establish our dominance. The Giants are the Giants and they're going to have their season and we're going to have ours. And we'll meet when it really counts."

The Jets and Giants will play on Dec. 6, but Saturday night's "Snoopy Bowl" at MetLife Stadium will serve as the appetizer. And it'll be the first opportunity for rival fans to assert their supremacy.

Former Jets coach Rex Ryan -- a man who couldn't hide his disdain for his team being considered the "little brother" to the Giants -- was so hard-pressed to defeat Tom Coughlin's crew in the 2013 preseason that he inserted Sanchez into the game in the fourth quarter behind a makeshift offensive line featuring second- and third-stringers.

The Jets came away with a 24-21 overtime victory that night. In the process, however, they lost Sanchez to a season-ending shoulder injury.

But with a new coach comes new rules, and it's clear that the importance that once was placed on defeating the Giants in the preseason has been replaced by more important objectives.

"For me, it's just another game," said receiver Eric Decker, who is in his second season with the Jets. "I know [from] last year it's the 'Snoopy Bowl' or whatever the title is."

Trophy aside, the game itself has some meaning. It's another litmus test for a Jets team that still is attempting to find its identity while trying to limit penalties and other miscues in the process.

So yes, the Jets do care about the "Snoopy Bowl" -- but only to a certain degree.

"Every game matters. I mean, we don't want to go out there and get blown out," outside linebacker Calvin Pace said. "It's always been a good test for us to play against the Giants. This time will be no different.

"Defensively, we just have to go out and start faster than we have the last two games, find a way to continue building on the things we did, creating turnovers, getting to the quarterback a little bit more. Just build on that."


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