Giants-Jets Preview

Rex Ryan thinks the New York Jets are better than the New York
Giants.

Tom Coughlin would rather settle the matter on the field.

The Jets will once again try to back up the talk of their brash
and boisterous head coach when they face the Giants on Saturday in
a meeting that could severely damage the loser’s playoff
chances.

Since being hired by the Jets (8-6) in 2009, Ryan has made
headlines with his bold talk and controversial statements. Losing
45-19 at Philadelphia last Sunday with a performance that some
players called “embarrassing” hasn’t quieted the jovial Ryan,
either.

Now, he wants everyone to know that his sights are set on
claiming New York for the Jets.

“There’s a lot of talk going back and forth, most of it driven
by me,” Ryan said. “But I’ll stand by anything I’ve ever said. I
didn’t come here to be anybody’s little brother. I came here to
win, to be looked at that way and to take over not just this city,
even though it’s the city to take over, but also this league.

“To say a team’s better than you that never made the playoffs is
ridiculous. Clearly, we were the better team my first two years. We
get to prove it Saturday who the best team is this year.”

Coughlin, on the other hand, prefers to avoid verbally sparring
with Ryan.

“Talk is cheap, play the game. That is the way I’ve always
believed,” the Super Bowl-winning coach said. “It will be one of
those knock-down, drag-out games without a doubt.”

Both teams are trying to improve their playoff chances, and
winning the final two games of the regular season is the only way
to guarantee a berth.

The Jets hold the final AFC wild-card spot with Cincinnati,
Tennessee, Oakland and San Diego lurking, while the Giants (7-7)
need to win the log-jammed NFC East to qualify for the
playoffs.

They’re one game back of first-place Dallas and one ahead of
Philadelphia. Those teams face each other Saturday before the
Giants host the Cowboys in Week 17.

“I think if you were to sit down in August and say that with two
games to go you’d have your destiny in your hands, not depending on
somebody else, you’d say, ‘Okay, sign me up for that,'” Coughlin
said.

The Giants, though, have dropped five of six and are trying to
rebound from a 23-10 home loss to last-place Washington last
weekend.

The defense is drawing sharp criticism for allowing an average
of 432.2 yards – 293.8 passing – the past five weeks. The unit
ranks 29th against the pass this season, surrendering 257.5 yards
per game.

That’s given fodder to the Jets’ Santonio Holmes, who feels like
his team could be in for a big day through the air. According to
the Super Bowl XLIII MVP, the Giants’ defensive backs “are poor
tackling guys,” and cornerback Corey Webster should be “ready to
bring his ‘A’ game.”

Perhaps engaging in trash talk is one way for Holmes to move
past his dismal performance in Philadelphia. He fumbled his first
catch and it was returned for a score, and a dropped pass later in
the first quarter turned into an interception that led to a
touchdown.

Holmes, who had four catches for 40 yards, didn’t help matters
when he celebrated a touchdown catch by flapping his arms like
wings when the Jets trailed by 18.

While Ryan and Holmes are giving the New York tabloids back page
material, Mark Sanchez is taking a different approach,
complimenting counterpart Eli Manning.

“For me, being younger than Eli, he’s done a great job,” said
Sanchez, who hasn’t thrown for more than 181 yards since Week 11.
“That’s been somebody I’ve watched on the field and he’s done a
heck of a job for his team.”

Sanchez threw a pair of interceptions against the Eagles last
week, but it was Manning’s three-pick day that really cost the
Giants.

Though Manning is having one of his best seasons – completing
61.6 percent of his passes for a career-high 4,362 yards – he’s
thrown 10 interceptions in his last seven games after having just
five in his first seven.

The Jets’ defense ranks seventh against the pass, yielding 205.1
yards per game, but they’ve only come up with three interceptions
the past six games after grabbing 13 in their first eight.

While the Giants are a consistent threat through the air thanks
to Manning and receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, the Jets
also boast an impressive receiving corps that includes Plaxico
Burress.

Burress is facing his former team for the first time in the
regular season since he accidentally shot himself in the leg in a
New York nightclub in November 2008. He was cut by the Giants prior
to his nearly two-year stint in prison.

Burress’ only catch in the past two games was a nine-yard TD
last week, tying him with Homes for the team lead with eight.

“I see the same kind of red zone threat that he has always
been,” Coughlin said of Burress. “He has certainly done an
outstanding job there.”

The Giants have won four in a row against the Jets since 1996.
This is the latest in the season they’ve met since a Jets win kept
the Giants from reaching the postseason in the final week of
1988.

“We have to win this game, we have to get in the playoffs, and
the Giants have to do the same. So it’s going to be huge,” Ryan
said.

The Giants will be without defensive end Osi Umenyiora, tight
end Jake Ballard and linebacker Mark Herzlich due to injuries, and
wide receiver Mario Manningham is listed as doubtful. Jets running
back Joe McKnight, the NFL’s leading kick returner, and defensive
back Marquice Cole are listed as questionable.