Charles Dickens famously wrote about “the best of times” and “the worst of times.”
If Dickens covered the Giants and the Jets, he’d have to amend his words to say this is the worst of times and the worst of times after week one of the 2023-24 NFL season.
The two local football teams now face monumental tasks. The Giants, smarting from a humiliating 40-0 defeat to the arch-rival Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, have to regroup in time to salvage their entire season–yes, already–in the face of a formidable upcoming schedule.
Meanwhile, the Jets have to overcome the loss of future hall of fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was injured on the fourth play of the Monday night game against the Buffalo Bills and is expected to miss the season.
The Rodgers injury is unspeakable bad luck for Jets fans and players. The team, which last won a Super Bowl on Jan. 12, 1969–their only such triumph in NFL history–had been the darling of the media this season. The Jets aggressively and impressively corralled Rodgers, who was seeking a divorce from the Green Bay Packers, his home for 18 seasons.
The spectacle of Rodgers writhing on his back made a diagnosis mute. It was clear that he was in serious distress–and so was his team even before the official diagnosis Sept. 12 of a shattered Achilles heel.
For now, the Jets have no choice but to rally around Zach Wilson, a depressing thought. The Jets selected Wilson second in the NFL draft two years ago. And signed him to a guaranteed four year contract with a fifth year option. But he proved to be immature and unprepared for the NFL. Quickly, the media labeled him a bust.
But Wilson shut up the skeptics on Monday night, as the Jets defeated Buffalo in overtime, 22-16. The Jets won on a punt return, but Wilson did not hurt the team.
The question now is: can the Jets, boasting a world-class defense and several well-regarded offensive players, carry their un-intimidating quarterback? Once upon a time, the Baltimore Ravens and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl on the strength of their defensive units.
The Pitiful Giants
Then, there are the Giants. Right now, this team is a mess.
During the off season, the Giants had signed Daniel Jones to a $40 million-a-year contract to be the quarterback savior. But he had no chance against Dallas. He seemed to be running for his life on practically evert passing play, a victim of the Giants erratic offensive line.
Now, the Giants have to get it together and travel west for back to back games against the woeful Arizona Cardinals–though no game is a gimme for the Giants–and the Super Bowl contending San Francisco 49ers only four days later. Next, the Giants have games against the Seattle Seahawks, the Miami Dolphins and the Bills–all of them powerful squads.
It’s almost incomprehensible that the two teams’ seasons could be declared “over” after only one week of play. Both teams, especially the Jets, had a boatload of hype about the prospects for the season. The Jets were featured on HBO’s popular series, “Hard Knocks,” which shows the progress that one anointed team makes during training camp.
If the Giants, as expected, beat the Cardinals on Sunday, the stench of the Cowboys’ debacle will be largely forgotten. If the Jets can defeat the Cowboys in Dallas on Sunday, fans and media will begin to craft a story line of a gritty team that “finds ways to win.”
The NFL is as unforgivable and unemotional as the stock market. Neither awards an E for effort, right? Winning the Super Bowl depends as much on a team’s ability to avoid or overcome serious injuries as it does on having pure talent.
Just ask the New York Jets.