New York Subway Super Bowl looking less likely
Fri, 06 Nov 2009 15:34:24 GMT —
If you're a New York City sports fan close your eyes and envision the following:
High-priced, smiling athletes standing on floats, cradling a championship trophy as millions of adoring fans shower them in a blizzard of confetti and paper.
It's what the New York Yankees and their fans will experience Friday when their caravan slowly winds down the Canyon of Heroes in lower Manhattan on its way to City Hall.
Enjoy it, New Yorkers. There probably won't be another parade, at least for another year.
The Subway Super Bowl many were hoping for next February after the Giants and Jets got off to unbeaten starts has hit one pothole after another over the last month, turning the smooth road to the title game into Times Square at rush hour.
Neither team has been going anywhere recently, and that might even include any trips to the playoffs.
After a 5-0 start, the defending NFC East champion Giants have lost three straight and slipped from first to third place in the division behind Philadelphia and Dallas heading into a now major game Sunday against San Diego.
The Jets and brash new coach Rex Ryan created an ever bigger buzz than the Giants in September, getting off to a 3-0 start behind rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. Losses in four of the last five games have stunned the team as it spends its bye week looking to regroup.
Let's just say the football hopes of the Big Apple are rotting, at least for now.
"That's the NFL. Just ask the Giants," outspoken Jets linebacker Bart Scott said. "A lot of teams rise high. The NFL season's a roller coaster. You're going to have your ups and you're going to have your downs. It's about how you prepare and how you respond to the adversity. You can pack it in as soon as something goes bad and give up, or you can go in and ride the ship."
This cruise is going to be require a lot of Dramamine because both teams have problems.
Let's start with the Jets (4-4), who are 1 1/2 games behind New England in the AFC East and a game behind Houston (5-3) in the race for the second wild-card berth.
The Jets aren't a bad team. But they haven't been a good one, either - despite what Ryan and his players say.
"We're a great team," Sanchez said. "We lost a couple of these games, just nail-biters. We just need to figure out a way to start winning these games instead of losing them. We need to show up in all three phases to do that."
The inconsistencies are what have killed the Jets so far. One week, it's Sanchez throwing games away, another it's a lapse in special teams, yet another the defense has a breakdown.
Then, there's also the issue of Ryan being a rookie head coach, still learning when to go for 2-point conversions or whether to bench his struggling quarterback.
"This team is my responsibility," Ryan said. "The identity of this football team, I want this team to play a certain way, and I think we have. The only thing is we have to play maybe a little smarter. I have to coach a little smarter. If you ask me to evaluate myself, there's room for improvement in all areas, for myself included."
It hasn't necessarily been all doom and gloom for the Jets. Their defense ranks second in the league and their running game is first. Sanchez has also shown glimmers mixed in with the bad stretches.
The adversity has come in losing two of their biggest playmakers to season-ending injuries in consecutive weeks. First, nose tackle Kris Jenkins went down with a knee injury, and running back-kick returner Leon Washington broke his right leg.
The Giants' situation is more complex. Many of the players who were part of their Super Bowl victory over New England in February 2008 are still around, but they are not playing so-called Giants football.
Sure, they looked great in beating Washington, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Oakland, but they looked pitiful losing to New Orleans, Arizona and Philadelphia in contests against better teams.
It's not just one side of the ball, either. Eli Manning has thrown six interceptions and been off- target on other passes in the skid. His young receivers are not getting open. The running game has been stacked up by opposing eight-man fronts and the play calling has not adjusted.
New coordinator Bill Sheridan's defense has been lit up for at least 40 points in two of the last three games. The secondary, which lost outstanding safety Kenny Phillips to a season-ending knee injury in September, has given up 15 passes of 20 yards in the losing streak. Opposing rushers also have ripped off three runs of 25 yards or longer, including two for touchdowns.
Even the normally reliable Jeff Feagles had a horrible punting game in the loss to the Cardinals.
"I don't think it is anything like worrying, but we are concerned because what we've put on tape the last three weeks is not us," Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Tuck said. "That's the concerning part. If we started the first five games playing and just continued like that the last three weeks, then, yeah, it would be what it is. But we think we have a championship caliber football team and the last three weeks we haven't showcased that."
Statistically, the Giants are right there. The defense is ranked third overall and the offense No. 5.
However, like the Jets, Tom Coughlin's team isn't putting it together.
Unless things turn quickly, neither the Giants nor the Jets is likely to make that trip down the Canyon of Heroes - unless they go to see the Yankees honored.