New York football fans cannot catch a break.
Optimism seemed reasonable last spring, when the Giants were coming off their first playoff win since Super Bowl XLVI and the Jets traded for future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Come autumn, the Giants have regressed, the Jets immediately lost Rodgers to injury and neither team is above .500 entering their rivalry game Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J.
The quadrennial regular-season showdown will feature backup quarterbacks on both sides, as the Giants (2-5) have yet to clear Daniel Jones for contact nearly three weeks after he injured his neck against Miami. Tyrod Taylor will start for the Giants against the Jets’ Zach Wilson.
Between the teams, the Jets (3-3) are in better shape coming off their bye. In Weeks 4-6, they played the Kansas City Chiefs close in a three-point loss before beating the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles.
Wilson got off to a discouraging start in Rodgers’ place, but he completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 630 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in those three games. Jets coach Robert Saleh said the team’s trust in Wilson is growing.
“As far as game-planning and trying to figure (things) out, we’re not trying to hide Zach at all,” Saleh said.
But the Jets’ saving grace has been a defense that has yielded just 19.8 points per game. Their eight interceptions have come off the Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen (three), Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes (two) and Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts (three).
“I say they have a really good front four,” Giants coach Brian Daboll said. “Call it more than a front four with the amount of times they rotate in there. Two good cover corners (Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed). … This is a challenging defense to get ready for, and it shows.”
Both Gardner and Reed missed the upset of the previously unbeaten Eagles with concussions, but they have cleared the protocol and are expected to play against the Giants. Rookie O-lineman Joe Tippmann (quad) is out and wide receiver Randall Cobb (shoulder) is questionable, while starting tackle Mekhi Becton (knee) will play.
The Giants hope to take positives from their 14-7 win over the Washington Commanders last week that ended both a four-game losing streak and a three-game offensive touchdown drought. Taylor threw for 279 yards and two touchdowns, and Saquon Barkley ran for 77 yards and caught the go-ahead score.
Jones and Taylor have combined to take 36 sacks as the Giants’ offensive line struggles to get healthy. Left tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring), an All-Pro last season, has not played since Week 1. Thomas was ruled doubtful for the Jets game.
“Obviously I want to be on the field,” Thomas said. “We only have a few opportunities to guarantee each season and I missed quite a few of them, so it doesn’t feel good.”
Along with Jones, Giants running back Gary Brightwell (hamstring) was ruled out for Sunday. Barkley hyperextended his elbow against Washington but practiced Friday and has no injury designation.
Tackle Evan Neal (ankle), rookie center John Michael Schmitz (shoulder), tight end Darren Waller (hamstring), linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux (knee) and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (neck) are questionable for the Giants.
The fact the rivalry only gets a regular-season edition every four years may heighten the emotions around it. The Jets have won the past two matchups, but the Giants lead the series 8-6.
“A lot of respect for them. They’ve got tremendous history,” Saleh said. “I think Daboll does a great job … I think it’s fun. It’s my first experience (in the rivalry), so I’ll let you know after the game.”