By Joseph Frescott, Sports Editor
Week 1 of the National Football League (NFL) season is usually a time of great optimism among teams and fans alike. That is not the case in New York.
Coming into the 2023-2024 season, there were high expectations surrounding both New York franchises.
For the Jets, the conversation this offseason was headlined by the blockbuster trade that saw them acquire four-time NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP) Aaron Rodgers. The trade, along with the appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks, led to an abundance of hope being placed on the franchise. This was reflected in the sportsbooks as well, with the Jets being the most popular pick amongst sports bettors to win the Super Bowl.
Coming off of their first playoff victory since their 2011 championship run, the Giants also had lofty expectations heading into the season. New York made a pair of big moves in the offseason, starting with the four-year $160 million extension for their franchise quarterback Daniel Jones. The Giants would go on to give “Danny Dimes” the best-receiving weapon of his career when they traded for Raider’s tight end Darren Waller. With star Saquon Barkley returning on the franchise tag, many expected an improved roster this season.
While many fans were excited to see the Giants in action, senior Adelphi University history major Michael Serrao thinks expectations should be tempered.
“I honestly think the Giants are in for a major regression year. Their roster just isn’t that talented and neither is their 45 million dollar quarterback Daniel Jones,” Serrao said. “I feel like it’s likely the Giants will miss the playoffs this year. The NFC East is tough with Philadelphia and Dallas.”
Both the Giants and Jets started their season at home against division rivals. The Giants were in the spotlight first, as they were slated for the first Sunday Night football game of the season against the Dallas Cowboys.
The game couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start for the G-Men, as after an 11-play 48-yard drive put the offense in field goal range on their opening possession, the 44-yard attempt by Graham Gano was blocked and returned for a touchdown by Noah Igbinoghene. The Cowboys would never look back, scoring 40 straight en route to a dominant 40-0 victory.
Despite the disastrous start to the season, Sports Management alumni Andrew Scarpaci remains hopeful in Big Blue.
“The Giants can definitely still make the playoffs. The NFC is a very weak conference as a whole, with very few viable competitive teams to make up the Wild Card spots, but I can’t see them doing anything beyond what they did last year,” Scarpaci said. “The Giants might get a playoff win if they get a favorable matchup, but that’s about it.”
Serrao thinks the Giants are at least an offseason away from being back in the playoff picture.
“The Giants need to add more talent on their roster if they want to be competitive. Their offensive line is sub-par and their receiving core around Daniel Jones is weak. You’re not gonna win in the modern-day NFL with a roster constructed like that,” he said.
The Jets kicked off their 2023 season the following evening on Monday night football against the Buffalo Bills. After the Bills opening drive stalled, quarterback Aaron Rodgers made his highly-anticipated debut.
On the fourth play of the drive, Rodgers was sacked by defensive end Leonard Floyd. Rodgers would need to be helped off the field following the play, as it initially appeared his ankle was twisted when the sack occurred. He would soon be ruled out of the game, and later MRI tests revealed his Achilles tendon was torn on the play, ending his season.
With former number 2 overall pick Zach Wilson now at the helm, the Jets would keep the game competitive, taking the lead with 1:48 in regulation after a 30-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlin gave them a three-point edge. Josh Allen and the Bills would respond quickly, forcing overtime thanks to a 50-yard field goal by Tyler Bass tied the game at 16.
Buffalo would win the overtime coin toss and receive the ball. After a quick three and out, rookie Xavier Gipson would take matters into his own hands, returning the ensuing punt 65 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
In Scarpaci’s eyes, the injury to Rodgers isn’t entirely detrimental to the Jets season.
“The Jets with or without Aaron Rodgers can win the AFC East. They drafted Zach Wilson two years ago to be their starting quarterback, and while he has drastically underperformed, he has beaten the Bills twice in two seasons, so I believe he can compete with any team in the division,” he said. “However, I do not think they will win a playoff game without Rodgers, as there are plenty of elite quarterbacks in the AFC that are more talented than Zach Wilson.”
Serrao doesn’t share in Scarpaci’s optimism.
“The Jets have compromised their entire team at the expense of Rodgers. If his career is ended or majorly shortened by this injury the Jets are in trouble,” Serrao said. “The Jets are still young and fun and can always figure out how to make things work if need be.”