Football Scientist: Who's better, Giants or Jets?

We receive a lot of questions during the live in-game chats, but one stood out more than any other in this week's Monday Night Football chat -- which team is better, the Giants or the Jets?

Like Barney Stinson (the hilarious character from the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother), I can't resist taking on a difficult challenge when offered one and therefore will accept the task of running the numbers to determine, at this moment, which New York team is superior.

This competition will be broken down into seven segments:

1. Wide receivers and tight ends

2. Cornerbacks and safeties

3. Offensive line and running backs from a passing game perspective

4. Offensive line and running backs from a running game perspective

5. Defensive front seven

6. Special teams

7. Quarterbacks (will save the best for last)

Each segment will be reviewed primarily on its 2010 metrics, although the 2009 numbers will also be leaned upon as a potential tiebreaking element.

That last note may be the most important part of this review -- there will be no ties in any of the overall battles (although some individual matchups could end up listed as a push). Like any good throwdown, each skirmish will continue until there is a winner!

Let's get started by reviewing the wide receivers and tight ends.

#1 wide receiver -- Hakeem Nicks vs. Braylon Edwards

Nicks has received a lot of publicity for his terrific play this season (including this TFS ESPNNewYork.com blog post) but Edwards is actually outplaying him in the metric realm so far this year. Check out the numbers:

Short passes (aerials thrown up to 10 yards downfield)

Edwards -- 18 attempts for 91 yards, 5.1 yards per attempt (YPA)

Nicks -- 38 attempts for 251 yards, 6.6 YPA

(note on attempts and yards - penalty plays such as pass interference, defensive holding, illegal contact, etc. are included)

Medium passes (11-19 yards)

Edwards -- 13 attempts, 164 yards, 12.6 YPA

Nicks -- 18 attempts, 155 yards, 8.6 YPA

Deep passes (20-29 yards)

Edwards -- 8 attempts, 127 yards, 15.9 YPA

Nicks -- 6 attempts, 86 yards, 14.3 YPA

Bomb passes (30+ yards)

Edwards -- 2 attempts, 0 yards, 0.0 YPA

Nicks -- 7 attempts, 57 yards, 8.1 YPA

They split two of the four YPA categories but Edwards ends up with the overall YPA lead (8.0 for Nicks, 9.3 for Edwards). Edwards also has an 12.7 to 9.6 YPA edge on vertical routes (which is composed of all aerials of 11-plus yards). Nicks does have to be given credit for being thrown to a lot more often (69 targets versus 41 targets) and therefore being a larger part of his team's offense.

Edge: Put them all together and it equals an Edwards lead at the moment. That may change down the road but right now the Jets have the advantage.

#2 wide receiver -- Steve Smith vs. Santonio Holmes

This one is a bit tougher because Holmes only has a couple of games under his 2010 belt. In that time, however, his overall YPA (8.3) is slightly better than Smith's (7.7). His history strongly suggests that this YPA difference is not an anomaly (Holmes has frequently posted double-digit YPA in many categories over the past few years).

Edge: Jets, slightly.

#3 wide receiver -- Mario Manningham vs. Jerricho Cotchery

Cotchery has posted quality numbers in the past (he was always as good as Laveranues Coles, just much less heralded) but this season is an entirely different story. Cotchery has a simply abysmal 4.6 YPA on 36 pass attempts this year. To put that total into perspective, consider that the league floor for YPA among wide receivers at the end of the season is normally around six YPA.

Manningham, on the other hand, is having an absolutely terrific season. He has gained 339 on 29 pass attempts for a stellar 11.7 YPA. A good part of why this is occurring is Manningham's superb showing on vertical throws. He has caught nine of 13 vertical passes sent his way and gained 220 yards on those aerials (16.9 YPA).

Edge: The Giants by a large margin.

Tight end -- Kevin Boss/Travis Beckum vs. Dustin Keller

One might think at first glance that this is a slam-dunk win for the Jets, but the numbers on each side of this equation are actually nearly identical.

Keller has gained 333 yards on 39 targets for an 8.5 YPA. Boss and Beckum have tallied 269 yards on 33 targets, or 8.2 YPA.

They are also very close on vertical passes, with Keller posting 239 yards on 16 attempts (14.3 YPA) versus Boss/Beckum's 163 yards on 11 attempts (14.8 YPA).

Edge: No discernible stat difference means this is also a push.

Add the four together and it equals two wins for the Jets versus one big win for the Giants. Had Big Blue's win come at one of the starting wide receiver/tight end roles, it might be enough to offset the Jets numeric edge in victories, but the #3 WR victory isn't quite enough to vault them over the top. It is close but in the end Gang Green pulls this one out. They have a 1-0 series edge heading into Game Two.