We've had fun with some of the pregame chatter, amplifying mildly inflammatory quotes from Rex Ryan and Justin Tuck, but you can't make a game something it's not -- and Monday night's game between the New York Jets and New York Giants is not what you might think it is.
Sure, there will be a little more intensity than in a typical preseason game, mostly because the starters will play into the third quarter, but the notion that the winner gets local bragging rights is a farce. Half the players will forget the final score by the time they leave the locker room. The only Jets-Giants game that matters is on Dec. 24 -- Eve of Destruction.
Barring a significant injury, the preseason game won't have a dramatic impact on what matters most: Sept. 11, the season opener. This is all about getting in, getting out, staying healthy, evaluating bottom-of-the-roster players and shifting into regular-season mode -- at least for the players who don't have to play in Thursday night's JV game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Longtime Jets followers know better than to invest too much into the preseason. The ultimate tease occurred in 1992, when first-year starter Browning Nagle led the Jets to a 5-0 record, fueling crazy optimism. Nagle ended up having one of the worst statistical seasons in history for a starting quarterback, and the Jets crashed at 4-12.
Another preseason memory came in 1997, Bill Parcells' first season as the Jets' coach. Minutes after the final game, Parcells lashed into his team, yelling so loudly in the locker room that his voice was heard by media members in the adjacent interview room.
"I'm as ready as I can get [for the season], because I couldn't possibly stand another preseason game like that," Parcells told reporters.
Imagine if the Jets had lost. Yeah, that's right, they beat the Bucs to finish a 4-0 preseason, yet Parcells was fuming.
Point of the story: The preseason can be whatever you want it to be; it depends on your team's agenda.
That year, Parcells felt it was important to establish a winning attitude, coming off the 1-15 debacle of '96, but he didn't want his team feeling too good about itself as it went into the season. He achieved that delicate balance.
The Jets (1-1) could lose to the Giants 28-10, yet they could qualify the preseason as a success if their two biggest goals are met:
• No front-line players suffer significant injuries.
Taking a narrow view, the Jets would like to accomplish some mini-goals.
They'd like to see running back Shonn Greene, back from a one-game foot injury, make some tough yardage between the tackles.
They'd like to see right guard Brandon Moore, in his preseason debut, make it through two-plus quarters without a setback to his surgically repaired hip.
They'd like to see whether designated pass-rusher Jamaal Westerman, having a quiet preseason, has the goods to get into Eli Manning's face -- or any quarterback's face, for that matter.
They want to see whether there's a punter in the house, as neither T.J. Conley nor Chris Bryan has grabbed the job by the throat. Maybe the Jets' punter is wearing blue; could they wind up with the loser of the Matt Dodge-Steve Weatherford competition?
One thing is certain: The winner of the game, dubbed the MetLife Bowl, receives a Snoopy trophy.
They should wrap it in a wet blanket. Where's Linus?