If Aaron Rodgers was healthy, this Sunday's Jets-Giants matchup would be the talk of the NFL's eighth week. Even without Rodgers, this is still a highly-anticipated game between two teams that still have a lot to play for, including the right to lay claim as the Big Apple's best team.
Fresh off their bye week, the Jets are in the thick of the AFC playoff race after knocking off the Broncos and Eagles in consecutive weeks. Gang Green's resurgence has been led by running back Breece Hall, wideout Garrett Wilson and a stingy defense that has been especially tough in the red zone. The unit's ability to force turnovers has been another big reason for the Jets' recent turnaround.
The Giants ended a four-game losing skid last week after winning a defensive duel against the Commanders. Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor had an exceptional game against Washington that included a pair of touchdown passes. The Giants' defense, led by Dexter Lawrence and Kayvon Thibodeaux, recorded six sacks while allowing just one third down conversion on 15 attempts.
Sunday's game is somewhat of a rematch; the two teams faced off this preseason in what was Rodgers' first live action with the Jets. If the atmosphere inside MetLife Stadium on Sunday is half as electric as it was that night, NFL fans will be in for a treat while watching a rivalry that should be played on an annual basis.
Before the two teams renew their rivalry on Sunday, here's a look at the top-five games in the long history of Gotham's two teams.
5. Jets get some Fitzmagic in 2015 win
Ryan Fitzpatrick had some crazy moments during his truly unique career. One of those moments occurred as the Jets' quarterback in a win over the Giants in Week 13 of the 2015 season.
Down 20-10, Fitzpatrick led the Jets on a pair of late scoring drives. The second drive ended with his game-tying touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall with 27 seconds left in regulation, forcing overtime.
Fitzpatrick, who threw for 390 yards on the day, started overtime with five straight completions to set up Randy Bullock's go-ahead field goal. But after Giants wideout Dwayne Harris returned the ensuing kickoff 43 years, it appeared that Fitzpatrick's herculean effort would be outdone by Eli Manning, whose accolades already included a pair of Super Bowl winning drives.
Two completions from Manning to Odell Beckham Jr. helped get the Giants into field goal range. But Josh Brown missed his 48-yard attempt, giving the Jets a 23-20 win while adding to what was a forgettable season for Big Blue.
4. Giants win wild shootout in overtime
One of rivalry's most memorable matchups took place in Week 9 of the 2003 season. In a game that took nearly 75 minutes to decide, the Giants prevailed, 31-28, on Brett Conway's 29-yard field goal on the Giants' third and final overtime possession.
The Giants had taken a 28-14 lead with less than 10 minutes to play, but the Jets rallied to tie the score on a pair of Chad Pennington touchdown passes, the second one occurring with 29 seconds left in regulation.
Both teams had opportunities to win the game in overtime. The Giants missed a field goal at the start of overtime, and the Jets followed suit with a missed field goal on their second possession of the extra period. Given another chance to win the game, the Giants took advantage when Kerry Collins completed passes to Amani Toomer and Tiki Barber to set up Conway's game-winning kick.
3. Defending champion Jets rout Giants in first-ever meeting
Oddly enough, the first meeting between the two teams was not played in either New York or New Jersey. It was instead played at New Haven, Connecticut's Yale Bowl, which temporarily housed the Giants for two seasons during the '70s.
While it was a preseason game, the first Giants-Jets game had a playoff atmosphere. Fresh off of a win in Super Bowl III, the Jets were hungry to beat the team that had first captured New York's heart after winning the 1956 NFL title. The Giants were hoping to hold off Broadway Joe and the defending champs in the first and only game played between the two teams before the AFL-NFL merger.
"Giants fans still don't feel we're on a parity with their team and we feel we've got to prove it," Jets linebacker Larry Grantham said that summer, via the New York Post. "A lot of people, NFL fans, still regard the Super Bowl as a fluke."
The Jets' upset in Super Bowl III created even more interest in pro football. Evidence of this was the fact that over 70,000 fans were on hand on August 17, 1969 to see if the Jets could back their shocking upset over the NFL champion Colts months earlier by beating the Giants, who by this time had fallen on hard times after being one of the NFL's crowed jewels during the '50s.
Fans rooting for the green and white that day were not disappointed. Led by Namath's three touchdown passes, the Jets recorded a 37-14 win over the Giants, who fired their head coach after the game.
"We played as hard as we did in the Super Bowl, said Namath, who actually played better against the Giants than he did in Super Bowl III. "There's no doubt who's No. 1 in New York now. The score proves who's No. 1."
OTD 1969— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) August 17, 2023
The defending-Super Bowl III champion New York #Jets meet the crosstown #Giants for the first time ever — an exhibition game held ironically enough at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, CT...approximately 75 miles from NYC.
The AFL Jets go on to trounce the NFL Giants, 37-14 pic.twitter.com/UUSl4T38pA
2. Jets eliminate Giants from playoff contention
Despite a 10-6 record, Bill Parcells' 1988 Giants squad did not advance to the postseason after losing a 27-21 decision to the Jets on the final day of the regular season. Big Blue's playoff hopes were officially dashed when Jets wideout Al Toon caught the game-winning score with 37 seconds left.
Making this loss even tougher to digest for Giants fans was the fact that their team had rallied back from a 20-7 deficit to take a one-point lead following Phil Simms' 9-yard touchdown pass to Lionel Manuel with just under five minutes left.
But mere moments after Simms' touchdown pass, Bobby Humphrey took the ensuring kickoff 37 yards to the Jets' 48-yard-line. The big return helped set up Ken O'Brien's game-winning touchdown pass to Toon.
December 18, 1988— New York Jets History (@nyjetshistory) October 25, 2023
NY Giants 21
NY Jets 27
Meadowlands 1PM CBS
Ken O'Brien 16-26-214-2-0
Freeman McNeil 12-45-1
Johnny Hector 7-35
Al Toon 4-56-1
Wesley Walker 2-86
Mickey Shuler 5-40-1
Jets D 8 sacks #TakeFlight #Jetshistory#Jets #Giants #NFL #NYJvsNYG pic.twitter.com/ejVbytW8pM
1. Giants rout Jets in the "Fight Before Christmas"
To say that there was some bad blood leading up to this game would be a massive understatement. While anticipation for this Christmas Eve matchup was already high (then-Jets coach Rex Ryan declared Gang Green as the better team earlier in the week), it reached an even higher level after the Jets put black curtains over the Giants' four Super Bowl logos painted on the outside wall of the locker room hours before kickoff.
Fuming, the Giants took their frustrations out on the Jets, who had appeared in the previous two AFC title games. The Jets led early, but fell behind for good after Victor Cruz scored on a 99-yard catch-and-run late in the first half. Big Blue sealed the win when Ahmad Bradshaw ran 19 yards to pay dirt just before the two-minute warning.
The Giants' parlayed their 29-14 win into a second Super Bowl run in five seasons. Conversely, the loss contributed to the Jets' missing the playoffs for the first of four straight years under Ryan.
"They were the better team today, and they're the better team this year," Ryan said afterwords, via ESPN. "Clearly, I was wrong."