Are the Jets and Giants Watchable Yet?

This season, we’ve enlisted two experts — one familiar with the ins and outs of New York’s football teams, the other a nationally focused football analyst — to answer an essential question as a service to readers: Are these teams good yet?

Giants

The Giants lost Thursday night’s game against the Washington Football Team, 30-29.

Insider’s perspective

Look, winning is great, but for sports fans who want a more robust flavor profile with their raw W’s and L’s, there is a superior experience: The young frisky team right on the cusp of being on the cusp. Still fundamentally terrible — but the fun variety. Funnible. The 2021 Giants are officially funnible.

The Giants should have won on Thursday night against the Washington Football Team. They should’ve knocked off a fashionable playoff pick on their home turf, sent the W.F.T. fan base into W.T.F. mode before Week 3. Instead, they did what funnible teams do: They blew the game in a brilliant kaleidoscope of ways.

A 58-yard Daniel Jones touchdown sprint in the second quarter was erased by a holding penalty. A 43-yard Daniel Jones touchdown pass that would have iced the game in the fourth was erased when Darius Slayton dropped it in the end zone. At one point, the Giants actually won the game — the clock had struck zero, and they were leading on the scoreboard — and somehow still lost. (Missed field-goal attempt, offsides, second chance, ballgame.)

Now the straight-up fun part: Daniel Jones! All of a sudden, the Giants’ biggest question mark is looking like an exclamation point. And it wasn’t just his legs (fastest quarterback in the N.F.L. last season — look it up). He made good decisions and his throws were sharp-ish. Most critical of all, against what was supposed to be a top-five N.F.L. defense, he didn’t commit a single turnover. Yes, Giants fans, he didn’t even fumble.

The fun part, Part 2: The Giants’ second biggest question mark heading into the season, Saquon Barkley, ripped off a vintage Saquon 41-yard run, and you could almost see his confidence in his surgically repaired knee grow with each step.

Saquon might be back. Daniel Jones might be legit. The Giants are definitely 0-2. But in Week 3 the maybe-even-lousier Atlanta Falcons come to the Meadowlands. Let the funnible begin.

Verdict: Terrible + fun = Funnible. — Devin Gordon

Outsider’s view

For decades, the N.F.C. East has been described as the most competitive division in the N.F.L., the best backhanded compliment there is. Any N.F.L. fan could have slept through Thursday night and guessed the result: divisional rivals going down to the last possession, and a result leaving one side happy but no one feeling good.

Offensively, the Giants face the same issue as last season — blocking up front. Of Saquon Barkley’s 57 rushing yards, 48 came on two carries. There was more success with Daniel Jones on read options than Barkley between the tackles.

The weight of the offense rested on the right arm of Jones, and protecting the quarterback didn’t go any better. Washington’s Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Montez Sweat crushed the pocket from the opening whistle, and got more menacing in the second half when the Giants couldn’t threaten the defense with the run.

Yes, Jones played as well as he ever has against that kind of pass rush. But his effort was ultimately wasted because of poor defense, which opened the season by giving up 600 yards and four touchdowns to quarterbacks who were backups entering training camp.

The best news leaving Thursday: The Giants have 10 days to recover.

Verdict: Nope. Try again next week. — Diante Lee

Jets

The Jets lost to the Patriots, 25-6, on Sunday.

Insider’s perspective

Of all the crimes against football that the Jets have committed in recent years, the worst of the bunch has been their stubborn insistence on being dull. This is a franchise that hasn’t had a star of any kind since Darrelle Revis, who was never on TV because he played cornerback, and hasn’t had an electrifying playmaker since running back Curtis Martin, who retired in 2007. So if you’re trying to find it in your heart to pity Jets fans, consider this: We have been waiting this whole century just for someone entertaining to watch.

No one expected the Jets to be good this year — no one ever expects the Jets to be good. That’d be ridiculous. But heading into the fall, Jets Nation was feeling confident that it had a player to focus on who at least cleared the entertaining threshold: the rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, the laser-armed second overall pick in the draft out of Brigham Young.

So when Wilson threw his third interception of the first half Sunday against the New England Patriots, it was early enough to stay focused on the bright side: At least he’s slinging it! And what an arm! His fourth interception, though, on the opening drive of the second half, was a sobering reminder that the Jets are, for now at least, still very much the Jets, and that Bill Belichick still eats rookie quarterbacks for breakfast. Belichick’s own rookie quarterback — the Alabama product Mac Jones — meanwhile, did nothing to chase away the ghost of You Know Who, but he executed Belichick’s joyless offense with do-your-job efficiency and collected the first N.F.L. victory of his career. Good for him.

Sometimes you can tell just from the final score that a game was a stinker, and this one ended, 25-6, in the Patriots’ favor. Stalled drives, missed extra points, field goal after field goal — it’s right there in the point totals. It’s only Week 2 for the Jets, and it’s only the second game of the Zach Wilson era, but it feels the same as it ever was.

Verdict: Keep moving — nothing to see here. — Devin Gordon

Outsider’s view

Welcome to the N.F.L., rookie.

Jets fans were seeing the ghost of Sam Darnold in quarterback Zach Wilson during Sunday’s loss in Foxborough, Mass. NFL Network’s RedZone channel probably had a massive viewership spike in the New York metropolitan market after 2 p.m., with the game well in hand by the third quarter.

Patriots defensive backs J.C. Jackson and Adrian Phillips caught passes from Wilson before a Jets receiver did, and each of Wilson’s four interceptions were progressively worse decisions — the fourth being a pass that seemed intended for New England safety Devin McCourty.

Wilson is the latest baby-faced quarterback to end up on the mantel of Bill Belichick, who has lost to only six rookie quarterbacks in his New England tenure — never at home. From 2006 to the start of this season, here are some of the combined statistics of the 20 games rookie quarterbacks have played against the Patriots’ defense: a 55 percent completion rate (the lowest in 2020 was the Eagles’ 56 percent), 19 touchdowns to 30 interceptions (2020 worst: Denver’s 21:23 ratio), and 53 sacks (2020 worst: the Eagles’ 64). Belichick turns rookie quarterbacks into the worst passing offenses in the N.F.L.

Meanwhile, Belichick’s rookie quarterback, Mac Jones, was consistently forced to dump the ball off underneath, and almost all of the Patriots’ yardage came after the catch. Jets Coach Robert Saleh’s defense performed well given how much time it spent on the field in the first half, and their “bend but don’t break” approach kept New England from blowing the game open early.

The Jets are playing rookies more than anyone else in the league at the moment. This is as torn down as a tear-down gets, and it probably won’t be until the Jets face the Titans (Week 4) and Falcons (Week 5) that the young guys will be able to showcase their potential.

Verdict: Not yet, and it’ll be a while. — Diante Lee

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