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Time is a flat circle, but we want to help you break it. To that end, we’ve enlisted two experts — one familiar with the ins and outs of New York’s professional football teams, the other a nationally focused football analyst — to answer an essential question as a weekly service to readers: Are the Jets and Giants good yet?
Devin Gordon, the author of “So Many Ways to Lose: The Amazin’ True Story of the New York Mets, the Best Worst Team in Sports,” observed the teams from a locally focused perspective.
Diante Lee, an N.F.L. analyst at Pro Football Focus, offered a national view.
The Giants’ (4-7) defense goaded the Philadelphia Eagles (5-7) into committing four turnovers, including three interceptions thrown by Jalen Hurts, in a 13-7 win Sunday at home.
At the start of this season, the Giants were promisingly “funnible” — that rare breed of young but frisky, fun and athletic, but still terrible. The best kind of bad team to watch. Quarterback Daniel Jones was an adventure on every play, Saquon Barkley was back to hitting doubles and triples if not quite the home runs of his rookie season, and the free agent acquisition Kenny Golladay was coming down with 50/50 balls like the Giants had paid him handsomely this off-season to do. Things weren’t exactly clicking, per se, as the team lost five of its first six games, but the promise was real.
And then Barkley got hurt, again, and then all the Giants’ receivers got hurt, again, and the trick plays from their embattled offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett, revealed that there was no trick.
Barkley returned last week, Coach Joe Judge fired Garrett last week and turned the play-calling over to Freddie Kitchens, who spent one epically funnible season as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns in 2019.
In other words, Sunday’s game against the Eagles had all kinds of funnible potential: a new offensive coordinator with a wacky past, a hated N.F.C. East rival, and a Giants offense bucking to be unleashed.
It was so dull. So many punts. The Giants won, 13-7, but that makes it sound sort of dramatic, like some gritty, low-scoring grudge match. It was not that. It was two teams going nowhere, and the funnible has officially run out.
VERDICT: Even the wins lack inspiration.
In my culture, we have a scientific term for the lethargy the body endures after a huge holiday feast: the ‘itis.
Every movement, every thought, and the world around you move a step and a half slower than normal. All your body’s normally dismissible creaking and cracking feels a little more noticeable, and the only successful treatment is a long nap.
The Giants and Eagles moved around on Sunday like they had the ‘itis.
The score was a woefully sluggish 3-0 until midway through the third quarter. Mercifully, the Giants extended their lead to 10 and held Philadelphia off, sparing viewers from the threat of any extra football, or passing from the two quarterbacks.
Jalen Hurts and Daniel Jones combined for over 60 attempts, but less than 350 yards. The most entertaining parts of the game had almost nothing to do with their throws, unless Hurts was tossing one of his three interceptions.
Hurts and both Eagles running backs — Boston Scott and Miles Sanders — each outpaced Saquon Barkley, who must look at Philadelphia’s offensive line longingly and wonder what it must feel like to get past the line of scrimmage.
Freddie Kitchens’ debut as the Giants’ offensive play-caller was successful, by the most reductionist logic available — his offense scored more points than the opponent’s. The bad news from this win? The Giants are technically in the hunt for a wild-card playoff spot, an idea that isn’t healthy for anyone involved.
Verdict: More watchable than last week, for whatever that’s worth.
In quarterback Zach Wilson’s return after missing four games with a knee injury, the Jets (3-8) won, 21-14, scoring the game’s final 18 points, to beat the Houston Texans (2-9).
Half the seats at NRG Stadium in Houston were filled Sunday with Texans fans, the other half empty with despair.
Both the Jets and Texans came into the game with 2-8 records, which meant the loser would be the real winner in draft positioning to select after the winless Detroit Lions in April 2022. In a sad, self-owning kind of way, there was a lot riding on this game.
The bad news out of Sunday’s game is that the Jets are now one step further from the second pick in 2022. The good news is they won, 21-14, and that their rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, the second overall pick from the 2021 draft, played his most disciplined game of the season in his return from a knee injury.
The Jets won, though, primarily by taking the ball out of his hands. They ran 34 times for 157 yards; Wilson attempted just 24 passes, completing 14 for 145 yards, and his only score came on a 4-yard quarterback keeper in the third quarter. His white-knuckle performance against an ordinary Texans defense only clouded the existential question facing the Jets’ front office: Is Zach Wilson this team’s franchise quarterback, or will they be drafting yet another one next year?
Verdict: The Magic 8-Ball says “Ask Again Later.”
What’s stopping the N.F.L. from having the Jets and Texans play each other every week from here out?
As Bill Hader’s “Saturday Night Live” character, Stefon, would say, this game had everything.
Two bad teams whose fan bases are unsure of whether to root for draft positioning or a win? Check.
The rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, starting the game looking as though he couldn’t hit the Hudson River from the West Side Highway? Check.
A final score that suggests steady play from both teams, in spite of what actually happened? It had that, too.
In the end, the Jets scratched out a win over a Texans team that will have to duke it out with Jacksonville for the worst record in the conference.
Wilson’s performance was still far from that of a franchise quarterback, but the rhythm he played with in the third quarter showed some promise. Ending the go-ahead drive with his 4-yard rushing touchdown might stand as his best sequence of the season.
For the first time this season, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams didn’t look like he had to provide all the run defense and pass rush himself, and the Jets are stringing together glimpses of making plays and forcing turnovers.
Three months is a mighty long time to start looking like an N.F.L. team, but the Jets are there.
Verdict: Can’t believe I’m saying this, but … yes?