The New York Giants (5-1) last reached the NFL postseason in 2016. The New York Jets (4-2) last got there in 2010. Both North Jersey teams haven’t reached the postseason in the same year since 2006, but there is considerable hope that meaningful January football is on the horizon for both long-struggling franchises.
How real is the East Rutherford NFL revolution of 2022? ESPN turned to its experts on the ground and beyond to assess the chances of both the Giants and Jets keeping the good times rolling long after the leaves have changed color in the Northeast:
Why they might keep it going
The Giants clearly have something going here. They’re playing hard and aren’t beating themselves like they’ve done in the past. First-year coach Brian Daboll preaches being smart, tough and dependable. It’s what they’re getting. There is a different feeling around this team with Daboll running the show.
“The guys that have been here are tired of losing,” center Jon Feliciano said. “They bought in.”
The blueprint has been laid and the Giants are following it every week: Run the ball. Make enough plays in the passing game. Play solid defense. Make stops in the red zone. Win it in the second half, when they have outscored the opposition 87-49.
You might say it’s unsustainable long term. And maybe it is. But the Giants are already 5-1 and have a favorable schedule on the horizon with Jacksonville, Seattle, Houston and Detroit before Thanksgiving. They also are getting healthier. Defensive lineman Leonard Williams and rookie wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson returned this week, and both played key roles in the win over Baltimore. Edge rusher Azeez Ojulari (calf) should be back this week, and wide receivers Kadarius Toney (hamstring) and Kenny Golladay (knee) aren’t far off either. This team has more wins in it. — Jordan Raanan
Dee-fense! No longer a defensive dumpster fire, the Jets have allowed only 47 points during their current three-game winning streak — and they’re getting better. This is what Robert Saleh, a defensive-minded head coach, always envisioned.
They were dreadful in 2021 — 32nd in several key categories — but the addition of cornerbacks Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed, the return of defensive end Carl Lawson from injury and the elite play of defensive tackle Quinnen Williams have vaulted them to 18th in yards allowed (fourth over the past three games). The Gardner-Reed coverage on the perimeter helps the pass rush and gives the coaches more flexibility with their calls.
There’s only one upper-tier quarterback remaining on the schedule (two games against the Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen), so, yes, the defense should continue its ascent. The stingy defense pairs nicely with the Jets’ run-oriented offense, led by rookie sensation Breece Hall, a dual threat who can run through or around defenders.
Finally, the Jets have an identity on offense — smashmouth, with a nice complement of misdirection runs that add a little spice. Basically, they’re the San Francisco 49ers East. They can be more explosive if they figure out ways to get wide receivers Elijah Moore and Garrett Wilson more involved. — Rich Cimini
Why they might not
The Giants are 23rd in total offense (317.3 yards per game). Their defense is ranked 15th in yards allowed at 339.3 yards per game. At some point it will come back to bite them if they’re getting outgained every week.
The Giants’ current formula for success provides so little margin for error. They are 5-0 this season in games decided by one score or less. The law of averages says that will even out as the sample size increases. Maybe that missed field goal by the Titans at the final whistle will split the uprights later this season. The illegal formation by the Ravens late in the fourth quarter that kept the Giants alive won’t happen. Somebody will naturally bring their A-game to MetLife Stadium.
It’s also hard to win in today’s NFL if you’re not able to throw the ball consistently and effectively. Quarterback Daniel Jones and the Giants have the league’s 31st-ranked passing offense, averaging only 154.3 yards per game. That is a combination of their lack of weapons and an offensive line that isn’t especially good at pass protection. There isn’t much to suggest that is going to change drastically as the season progresses. — Raanan
Stephen A. Smith outlines why he doesn’t see the New York Giants making the playoffs.
The Jets aren’t getting much production out of second-year quarterback Zach Wilson, which lowers the team’s ceiling. Sure, they can win eight or nine games with the running game and a strong defense — more wins than anyone expected in August — but they won’t make noise in January with Wilson struggling to get to 10 completions and 110 yards, his stats from Sunday’s upset of the Green Bay Packers.
It could remain rocky in the coming weeks, as two of the next three games are against top defensive teams: the Denver Broncos (ranked third, 16.0 PPG) and Buffalo Bills (ranked first, 13.5 PPG). Opponents will overplay the run, daring Wilson to beat them. Can he? Since returning from his right knee injury, he has been efficient in six of 12 quarters.
On the positive side, Wilson has gone nine straight quarters without a turnover. It’s important to remember that he has only 16 career starts, so he’s still learning. The Jets are developing him the right way — slow and steady — but that method often isn’t conducive to team success. You need a prolific passer to win titles in today’s NFL, and Wilson — still looking for his first 300-yard passing day — isn’t there yet. Another concern: For a team reliant on rookies, the so-called “rookie wall” looms as a potential hindrance. — Cimini
What do the advanced stats say?
Credit to the Giants for their 5-1 record, though ESPN’s Football Power Index remains somewhat skeptical, making the Giants the 23rd-best team in the league going forward. The line play is not ideal on either side of the ball: The Giants rank below average in both pass block win rate and pass rush win rate — though Dexter Lawrence deserves a shoutout as an exception — and are last in the league in run stop win rate, which tracks with their second-worst 5.6 yards per carry allowed. But on the plus side: Daniel Jones is 14th in QBR — better than he has finished a season — and the Giants have the third-easiest remaining strength of schedule.
FPI considers the Jets an almost perfectly average team — 17th and two-tenths of a point behind the rival Patriots — which is, in some ways, a form of respect given where they started (30th in preseason rankings). If Zach Wilson qualified for QBR he’d sit in the same ballpark, at 19th. But it’s what’s going on around the quarterback that is the real reason for optimism. One notable standout spot: outside corner, where rookie Sauce Gardner ranks fifth in EPA allowed on targets (-11.2) and D.J. Reed is in the top 10 in yards per coverage snap allowed (0.8) as a nearest defender, per NFL Next Gen Stats. — Seth Walder
Eric Moody analyzes the impressive stretch of games from Jets RB Breece Hall, and breaks down how fantasy managers should view him going forward.
What stands out from a football perspective?
Coaching matters. On both sides of the ball — with Brian Daboll on offense and Wink Martindale on defense — the Giants are using scheme, player deployment and a very physical style to generate production. Offensively, New York is creating juice in the pass game with Daniel Jones by employing repetitive, defined throws to a depleted receiver corps, while leaning on the explosive traits of Saquon Barkley, who is averaging 23.3 touches per game. Now, pair that with the aggressive defensive system under Martindale, with a big and powerful front that can dictate game situations.
I look at the Jets’ young playmakers on a very well-coached football team, including Sauce Gardner and Quinnen Williams on defense — two disruptive players on a defense that leans on defined coverages and schemed-up defensive fronts. And, when we flip to the offensive side of the ball, the focus shifts to rookie running back Breece Hall. He’s a dual-threat player who can rip off big plays and handle heavy volume in offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s system. — Matt Bowen
What’s one practical move each team could make at the trade deadline (Nov. 1) to strengthen its playoff chances?
I don’t think the Giants have the cap space to make a big deadline move. And while the 5-1 start is wonderful, I think any honest look at where the franchise is in its rebuilding process would tell you the Giants shouldn’t be trading away draft picks. They still don’t know if they’re going to be in the quarterback market next offseason, for goodness’ sake. My suggested move for them was going to be to trade for Robbie Anderson, but while I was typing that up he got traded to the Cardinals. Wide receiver is the big need, so maybe call the Jets about Denzel Mims? He’s making about $1.1 million this year and about $1.35 million next year and none of it’s guaranteed. He just turned 25. Could be worth a shot.
They’ve been so beaten up at the tackle positions, I think that’s the position they’d look to address if any. (The Jets actually have a pretty strong roster overall.) I’d at least call the Texans to see what they’re thinking about Laremy Tunsil. They restructured his contract this year and would take on a bunch of dead money if they moved him, but if he’s not in their long-term plans, it’s not out of the question the right offer could pry him away.— Dan Graziano