Commentary

Statement games? Don't bet on it

Despite Sunday's hoopla, the final chapter on Jets', Giants' season has yet to be written

Updated: December 21, 2010, 4:32 PM ET
By Jane McManus | ESPNNewYork.com

It was such a bad loss for the New York Giants that coach Tom Coughlin said he coped by sitting in a room with the lights out. For two hours. If that's true, he would have certainly missed the louder, greener NFL franchise in New York turning on the neon lights again.

[+] EnlargeTom Coughlin
Rich Kane/Icon SMITom Coughlin and Matt Dodge were principal players in an epic Giants collapse against the Eagles.

In just one day, the New York Jets went from being the most dysfunctional, most reviled team in the history of human competition to a Super Bowl contender once more with a 22-17 win on the smelt-lined field of Pittsbugh.

That same day, Coughlin went from canny Super Bowl winner to a playlist-spiking coach who needs to watch his back, with rivals putting the Giants on the top of their comeback wish list. Matt Dodge, went from a struggling rookie punter to a kid whose popularity in New York rivals LeBron James'.

Of course, the truth is not in the extremes. Both the Jets and Giants are teams that still have a good chance at securing a playoff spot this weekend. Yet there's no denying that public perception of both franchises took a dramatic turn given the way they won or lost.

The Jets had strung together two weak performances. A loss to the Patriots was understandable, but the final 45-3 score isn't a bullet-point on an NFL resume for a team applying for the Super Bowl. Followed up by a 10-6 loss to Miami at the New Meadowlands and Jets fans were shouting for Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to be fired.

Truth is, most pundits had penciled in an "L" next to the word Steelers on the Jets' schedule.

Now? Schotty's a genius. He called that bootleg, right?

Maybe Giants fans weren't quite as confident their team would beat the visiting Eagles, but certainly after New York blazed to a 24-3 win, it was safe to figure the Giants and Eagles had split, and a few calculations later could feel good about the division and seeding and ... hey, why isn't anyone stopping DeSean Jackson?!

One play. Both games came down to one play.

Both the Jets and the Giants can get to the playoffs with a win next Sunday, the Giants at Green Bay and the Jets at Chicago. Both those games are winnable for the New York teams. And once the Giants reach the postseason, people can stop using Dodge's name as a curse.

When even the braggadocios Rex Ryan said the impact of his Saturday night pregame speech in Pittsburgh was overblown, you know the hype machine is at work. Mark Sanchez ran in the ball, the TD drought is over but he needed an MRI after the game, which could temper all the rampant optimism.

Bottom line on the Jets and Giants: They are the same as they have been all year. Both with impressive wins, and now, at least one humbling loss. The final chapter on each has yet to be written.

Giants fans, things are not as bleak as they seem. If you want proof, just reach across the aisle and ask a few Jets fans. They've been there.

Jane McManus is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow her on Twitter.

More from ESPNNewYork.com

Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.

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