This New York-Philadelphia matchup has been devastatingly one-sided
Athletic contests between New York and Philadelphia are often granted the most prolific stages their leagues have to offer.
Get-togethers between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles are frequently flexed to national television. The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies have engaged in a long-standing NL East rivalry.
Meanwhile, the New York Yankees’ most recent world championship came against the Fightin’ Phils. And on the ice, the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers co-starred in one of the NHL’s most memorable outdoors games in 2012.
Alas for the cities’ greenest commodities this side of the Phanatic, their Sunday reunion has garnered little fanfare.
The New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles resume their recurring series on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. ET, CBS) for the 12th all-time showdown between the interconference foes. Despite their infrequent scheduling, the Jets and Eagles share perhaps one of the more uncanny matchup ledgers in the history of the NFL.
The teams have not only met annually in their respective preseason finales since 2001 but each of the first 11 regular-season meetings has ended in Philadelphia’s favor. The most recent staging was a 31-6 Eagles win at Lincoln Financial Field in October 2019.
The lack of brotherly love from Philadelphia is a footnote of sorts in the history of the Jets (3-8). It’s one that has mostly escaped the spotlight thanks to the quadrennial nature of the matchup but still adds to the star-crossed aura of New York football.
With a chance to erase the historic streak of futility, Jets head coach Robert Saleh isn’t interested in playing historian. Asked this week if a kelly green cloud lingers over the Jets thanks to their winless mark against the Eagles, Saleh simply replied “that’s history,” per notes from Jets.
Tight end Ryan Griffin had a little more reverence for the past, remarking that it’d be “pretty cool” to be part of the Jets’ first victorious effort against the Eagles. But there are broader efforts on the New York timeline than topping those from Broad Street.
“We just need this game for two in a row,” Griffin said shortly after the Jets earned a 21-14 win in Houston last weekend. “(We need) to get things rolling in the last quarter of the season.”
The NFL’s scheduling formula used to limit meetings between the Jets and Eagles to once every four years. However, a new wrinkle to the fold, that of a 17th game to schedule, hastened this latest showdown. Even so, things are hardly familiar.
Griffin is one of only two Jets starters from the aforementioned 2019 contest (the other being the injured Marcus Maye) that remains on the current roster. The 2021 edition was arranged when the Jets and Eagles finished at the bottom of their respective divisions last year.
To Griffin’s point, the Jets are far more focused on building the first winning streak of the Saleh/Zach Wilson era. New York has had opportunities to get one going after upsetting the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 3 before likewise shocking the Cincinnati Bengals four weeks later.
Each of those well-earned victories was immediately followed by further gridiron malarkey against mediocre competition: the win over the Titans preceded a mostly listless overseas showing against Atlanta while a historically poor, nationally televised defensive outing erased the good vibes gleaned from Halloween.
The Jets have had several moral victories emerge from what’s more than likely another playoff-free season. For example, some newcomers (i.e. Michael Carter, Elijah Moore) have established themselves as essential parts of the future.
But the team knows that the most perfect, the most conventional way to prove that this iteration of the perpetual rebuild is working is by stringing wins together. Owning Seattle’s first-round selection from the coming draft effectively allows the Jets to fearlessly play for victories and the players are looking to take full advantage.
“Guys understand that at the end of the day we can’t just hang our hat on one win and come back the next week and flop. That’s what bad football teams do,” defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins said of the Eagles game, per team notes. “Just because you win a game in this league, it isn’t the Super Bowl. You’ve got to line up the next week and be able to replicate that type of effort, that type of execution because that’s what the good teams do.”
Doing so against an Eagles team that has a good bit to play for could do wonders for the New York morale. Philadelphia (5-7) entered last weekend as winners of three of their past four games and inching toward the proverbial “team you don’t want to run into” status. But a listless performance, also held at MetLife Stadium, was a sizable blow to their confidence.
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The Eagles mustered only a single touchdown last weekend against the New York Giants but still had a chance to win in the game’s dying stages. Crucial drops from first-round pick Jalen Reagor doomed them to a 13-7 loss that leaves them a half-game behind divisional foe Washington for the final NFC playoff spot.
If the Jets were to prevail against the Eagles, it would be a strong showcase for a beleaguered defense that started to make things right with a five-sack showing against the Texans last weekend.
The unit had to prepare for two different quarterbacks this week, as franchise man Jalen Hurts was set to be a game-time decision after sustaining an ankle injury against the Giants. Philadelphia’s backup is Gardner Minshew, a former Jacksonville starter fully capable of lighting up the stat sheet, and that’s what he’ll attempt to do after it was announced late Saturday that Hurts will miss the game.
Saleh knows the value of wins, even if they’re not going to help the Jets in the AFC playoff effort. But last week’s win established a standard he hopes the team can match for the rest of the year as they try to generate positive momentum toward what will presumably become his second year at the New York helm.
“Consistency is the truest measure of performance. You’re either consistently bad or consistently good, or consistently inconsistent,” Saleh said on Sunday. “There’s a standard that we have to be able to achieve day in and day out. Especially being a young team, it’s not about changing things up. It’s understanding how to be a professional, ignore the outside noise, and show up to work and keep the main thing the main thing.”
The Jets need to earn a big victory in the present to set up a better pace for their future. Rectifying the sins of the past would be a mere added bonus.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags