If you have Jets fans in your life, or if you happen to be of that orientation yourself, then this week you’ve actually been able to find kinship with Giants fans. This week for you is what last week was for them.
When there are no immediate football plans — both the blessing (for exhausted players) and the curse (for hyperventilating fans) of a bye week — you find yourself filling the hours any way you can, mostly with questions for which there are as yet no answers:
• Is 6-3 a mirage?
• Is it too audacious to want more?
• Am I crazy to think this is a playoff team?
Then you do the old Mike and the Mad Dog two-step through the remaining portion of the schedule … “That’s a win … that’s a lawss … that’s a win … that’s a lawss …”
At least the Giants went into their bye week off a loss, which makes a week off feel like something good, something nourishing, something peaceful (unless you decide to go to Cabo and get your fingers mangled in an ATV accident, anyway) and not something getting in the way of anything resembling momentum.
The Jets have to sit for 14 days on their most satisfying win in years, a shake-up-the-world 20-17 stunner over the high-octane Super Bowl favorites from Buffalo, roaring back from 14-3 down in order to do it. Off a game like that you wouldn’t mind if you were told you had to play a back-to-back in Berlin on Monday (again, that’s a fan’s thinking; the players usually see this annual break for what it is: a glorious chance at R&R).
“I’d be put off not to say that we do have an opportunity, but if we try to look at the long game, we’re going to miss the most important day which is the one that we’re present, where our feet are right now,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said on Monday, and surely you as a Jets fan can appreciate this because that’s how you feel, too. Don’t antagonize the football gods by chugging a heaping mug of hubris. Remember, thou art mortal …
“We’ve got to attack every moment,” Saleh said, “so even on this bye week just challenging our players, don’t just go home or go to the beach and sit back and have a cocktail and relax for a week. ”
(Presumably the stay-off-the-ATV message was already understood.)
The fact is, Jets fans and Giants fans aren’t all that dissimilar. Yes, the Giants have four Super Bowls and the Jets only one, but if you helicopter high enough to appreciate the bigger picture, both fan bases know how precious seasons like this really are, and how rare it really is to actually qualify for the playoffs — let alone for both teams to be harboring similar ambitions in the same year.
And this doesn’t just cover the last few years of barren-wasteland futility, either. Let’s go back to 1965, when Joe Namath arrived and the Jets truly began to resemble a legitimate professional football team. That’s 58 seasons, including the first nine weeks of this one.
The Jets have made the playoffs in only 14 of those years.
But the Giants have only made them in 16 of those years.
It isn’t a perennial thing, these playoff pushes, for either team. And for both? That’s an even rarer species. In those 57 full years dating back to ’65 — so 114 seasons between the two teams — they’ve appeared in the same playoff tournament only six times, all between 1980 and 2002.
No kidding: caring about football in and around New York City takes a bit of work and a lot of patience, when you think about it. Which is why these first nine weeks have felt so special on both sides of MetLife Stadium. The Giants get to crank it back up this weekend, and their fans will surely be ready to devour the poor Texans.
The Jets? They get another few days of holiday. The fans get to spend a stress-free Sunday rooting against the Bills and the Dolphins and the Patriots, before Monday hits and the countdown to Foxboro begins.
“When we come back we’ve got eight very big games to play that can make or break our season,” linebacker CJ Mosely said. “We’re going to really see where we stand and where we are mentally as a team collectively when we come back from the bye.”
And the idea on the Florham Park side of town — as it is in the East Rutherford end — is to keep the playoffs in view. It may seem like a modest ambition, but you know what? It’s November. Not every November feels this way. In truth, only a few of them ever have.