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NFL Report Notebook: Jets, Giants facing early crossroads

CONCERN RISING

IN NEW YORk

BY STEVE DeSHAZO

Nowhere is sports success more celebrated, scrutinized and agonized over than in New York. And at the moment, the Big Apple is moving toward Code Red in concern for its two football teams.

Yes, the Jets and Giants are both 2–2 (along with almost half of the NFL). The Jets are tied for the AFC East lead, while the defending Super Bowl champion Giants are just a game behind NFC East leader Philadelphia.

But the rumblings have begun. And in a city that considers itself the center of the universe, it will require two quick turnarounds (or a long playoff run by the Yankees) to calm the panic.

Let’s start with the Jets, whose DEFCON level is a little higher at the moment, thanks to Sunday’s 34–0 home drubbing by San Francisco.

The cries for Tim Tebow to replace struggling Mark Sanchez (the league’s 30th-ranked passer) were largely predictable. No one is more popular than a backup quarterback, and no backup has more appeal than Tebow.

Tebow could add a spark to an offense that ranks 28th out of 32 teams. He’d definitely help the Jets’ 24th-ranked rushing attack.

But Tebow doesn’t catch passes, as Santonio Holmes did before breaking his foot. Nor does he break up or intercept passes, as Pro Bowler Darrelle Revis did before tearing his ACL.

Revis, the NFL’s best cover corner, is almost assuredly lost for the season. Holmes could be out for an extended period. Those two injuries—along with a subpar performance so far from a vaunted offensive line—make the Jets vulnerable.

It’s enough to curb the appetite of coach Rex Ryan, already a shadow of his former self following off-season gastric band surgery.

With the Patriots seemingly hitting their stride and a host of wild-card contenders in the AFC, pessimism over the Jets seems a bit more justified than that concerning the Giants.

Still, though, there are issues. Eli Manning and company are 0–2 in the NFC East after Sunday night’s 19–17 loss at Philadelphia.

The division, once the league’s deepest, isn’t what it used to be. The Eagles have been outscored by 17 points despite their 3–1 record; the Cowboys (2–2) have suffered a couple of blowout losses; and the Redskins’ two victories have come over opponents with one win between them.

Still, though, the Giants’ upcoming schedule is brutal. Besides rematches with the Eagles and Cowboys, they must visit San Francisco, Cincinnati, Atlanta and Baltimore (combined current record: 13–3) and play Green Bay at home.

Under Tom Coughlin, the Giants have usually played their best football in December and January, as their two Super Bowl rings will attest. There’s plenty of time to get on another winter roll, but the Giants have some catching up to do.

Sunday night, Manning led a last-minute drive against the Eagles, and Giants fans probably expected a game-winning score. But an offensive pass-interference call took Lawrence Tines out of his range, and his field goal attempt fell short.

It was a surprising finish for a team that’s been among the NFL’s most clutch recently. The Giants (and their fickle fans) have to hope their season doesn’t turn out the same way.

UPSET PICK

The Dolphins’ collapse in Arizona dropped The Pick to 1–2 on the season. Trying to get back to .500, we’ll take Peyton Manning and the Broncos (7-point road underdogs) to exploit New England’s suspect pass defense.

Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443

sdeshazo@freelancestar.com

    COUNTING DOWN

    1. Texans (4–0)

    Prime-time spotlight awaits.

    2. Falcons (4–0)

    Must protect Ryan better.

    3. Ravens (3–1)

    Road tests begin Sunday.

    4. 49ers (3–1)

    Defense regains swagger.

    5. Packers (2–2)

    Offense loves faster pace.

    6. Bears (3–1)

    Thriving on takeaways.

    7. Cardinals (4–0)

    Eight straight home wins.

    8. Patriots (2–2)

    Defense braces for Manning.

    9. Broncos (2–2)

    Offense starting to click.

    10. Eagles (3–1)

    Perfecting the narrow win.

    11. Vikings (3–1)

    Special teams are shining.

    12. Giants (2–2)

    Dug early 0–2 division hole.

    13. Chargers (3–1)

    Saints will test secondary.

    14. Bengals (3–1)

    Lead NFL with 17 sacks.

    15. Steelers (1–2)

    Big Ben shines, needs help.

    16. Seahawks (2–2)

    First stumble for QB Wilson.

    17. Cowboys (2–2)

    It wasn’t all Romo’s fault.

    18. Dolphins (1–3)

    WR Hartline shone in loss.

    19. Rams (2–2)

    Little time to celebrate.

    20. Redskins (2–2)

    Lead the league in rushing.

    21. Lions (1–3)

    Coverage teams are awful.

    22. Jets (2–2)

    Tebow alone won’t do it.

    23. Bills (2–2)

    High-price defense failed.

    24. Buccaneers (1–3)

    Struggling to hold leads.

    25. Panthers (1–3)

    Secondary is porous.

    26. Raiders (1–3)

    Stop McFadden, stop team.

    27. Saints (0–4)

    Brees’ record came in vain.

    28. Chiefs (1–3)

    QB Cassel’s job in danger.

    29. Jaguars (1–3)

    Blame the teal jerseys.

    30. Colts (1–2)

    Coach’s illness a real blow.

    31. Titans (1–3)

    Locker avoids serious injury.

    32. Browns (0–4)

    Plagued by WR injuries.

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