Jets, Giants Set for Playoff Weekend
The wild boys are ready to go on Sunday. Both the Jets and Giants clinched Wild Card playoff berths last weekend, although the Giants didn't control their own destiny.
On Saturday evening, Tiki Barber silenced some of his critics with three touchdowns and over 200 yards rushing in a 34-28 win at Washington. The G-Men had to wait a day to know if they made the post-season, but the win all but made it a foregone conclusion, with an 8-8 record being good enough in the weak NFC.
The Jets, on the other hand, wrapped up their spot with a 23-3 dismantling of the hapless Raiders at the Meadowlands. Rookie head coach Eric Mangini surprised everyone (except for perhaps himself) by getting his team to over achieve with a 10-6 record.
Quarterback Chad Pennington started all 16 games for the first time in his career and took home the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. A nice bounce-back year after two shoulder surgeries on his throwing arm.
The things that made the Jets' success encouraging were that they went into training camp with question marks at quarterback, running back, and offensive line. That is a recipe for disaster in this league. Pennington won a four-way competition between himself, Patrick Ramsey, Brooks Bollinger, and rookie Kellen Clemens.
Curtis Martin has been out all season and probably done for good with a bad knee. Mangini used a 'running back by committee' for the majority of the season, with rookie Leon Washington shining of late.
Letting perennial All-Pro center leave for Tennessee as a free agent left a hole in the offensive line as big as the ones he used to make. But first round draft pick Nick Mangold has stepped into his shoes without missing a beat. Tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the overall number-four pick out of Virginia, has played extremely well.
Regardless of what happens in the Wild Card playoff game at New England on Sunday, this has been a successful season for Gang Green. They have completely changed the attitude at Weeb Ewbank Hall and should be a winning team for years to come.
On the other hand, the Giants avoided complete disaster by making the playoffs. They were riding high with a 6-2 record and had a two-game lead in the NFC East over the Dallas Cowboys. Then the injury bug hit them and the finger-pointing came with the losses. At times, it appeared that head coach Tom Coughlin was losing the team, and eventually his job. But the victory over the Redskins has bought the team and the coach more time. If they can play a competitive game at Philadelphia, the season will not be a total loss.
The Giants won their division last season and making the playoffs was expected this year. The Jets had a nice run the last time they qualified for the post-season in 2004, when they beat the Chargers in San Diego and lost by a field goal in Pittsburgh.