The New York Giants kick off the NFL season tonight at home against their division rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. It's the second time in five seasons New York will open as defending Super Bowl champs. The organization, players, and fans are itching for a chance to prove last year's squad wasn't just a team that got hot at the right time.
Meanwhile, the New York Jets front office and fan base would probably like an extra month of preseason to work out some serious kinks. The Jets didn't score a touchdown in their first three preseason games. Finally, third string quarterback Greg McElroy led the team to their first touchdown in their last preseason tune up against Philadelphia.
The Giants and Jets share a city and a stadium; yet enter 2012 on opposite ends of the spectrum.
The Giants own the same number of Lombardi trophies as the Green Bay Packers. Only the Steelers, 49ers, and Cowboys have more. As recently as 2008, Giants fans had doubts that Eli Manning would propel himself into a top quarterback. Five seasons later, Eli is a top-five quarterback, a notch below Brady, Brees, and Rodgers.
The odd thing is that with all their defensive starters returning and the core of their offense intact, Las Vegas has 10 teams listed ahead of the Giants as Super Bowl favorites. Maybe not so odd when one considers that the Giants have never won a playoff game the season after winning a Super Bowl. In 2008, the Giants were 7-2 at home, the two losses coming to the Philadelphia Eagles, with the latter ending their season in the first round of the playoffs. Frankly, that's the way the Giants have always preferred it; a lack of respect seems to keep this group motivated.
Meantime, the guys in green have tried to say everything and anything to prove they deserve more respect. Rex Ryan's first two seasons somewhat backed up his big words. But last season was a humbling experience for all involved. The Jets wrapped up 2011 at 8-8, well short of their head coach's blabber.
Since then, we've seen Ryan tame his tongue, while the most talked about backup QB in the history of the NFL came to town. Still the offense struggled mightily in the preseason. But the Jets will tell you they're hiding their "Tebow packages" to surprise teams in the regular season. The real surprise will be if the team can manage a record above .500. It seems to me that the coaching staff and players have an overabundance of confidence considering how last season ended and this preseason played out.
While every team in the NFL is trying to figure out how to exploit the new rules to benefit their passing game, the Jets are focused on establishing a ground-and-pound running game. That style of play is becoming more extinct with each season. At a time when the USPS is nearly bankrupt because everyone is sending emails, the Jets are buying stamps and licking envelopes.
As another great summer on the East End wraps up, the consolation prize is the beginning of football season. The New York Giants take the first step to a potential repeat tonight against Dallas. The Jets open up Sunday against a much-improved Buffalo Bills team. I wouldn't be surprised if only one of these teams is still in the playoff hunt once the leaves are down on the scrub oaks.
Pete is a lifelong Montauk resident and former sports talk host at 88.7FM WEER. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.