EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard have played a total of 14 years for the Giants and their combined scrimmage yardage output against the Jets is 30 yards – all of it Barkley's.
Of course, that statement deserves an asterisk. The Giants have played the Jets just once since the arrival of Barkley (2018) and Shepard (2016), two of the most prominent Giants of the last decade. And Shepard was inactive with a concussion for the Giants' 34-27 loss to the Jets on Nov. 10, 2019. Barkley caught five passes for 30 yards but rushed for a career-low one yard on 13 carries.
"I really don't think about it too much," Barkley said this week. "I was sitting down in my house and my brother, my little brother, definitely reminded me about it. Made a little joke about it. That's when I realized, like, dang, I really had one rushing yard against this team. But at that moment, that was probably, before I ever had an ACL or anything like that, the lowest moment I had as a player. I liked how I responded. I think in the next couple of weeks, I played pretty well and had one of my better games two or three weeks after that. So, you learn from it. I'm not the only back that's ever been part of a game like that. I remember seeing the (stats) of Barry Sanders in the playoff game having, like, 16 carries for zero yards."
On Sunday, Barkley and Shepard and the rest of the Giants will have an opportunity to post more significant numbers against the Jets when the two teams clash in MetLife Stadium.
Though they have met just 14 times in 53 years – and every four seasons since 1999 – the teams and their fan bases are acutely aware of the comparable fortunes of the two teams.
"I think it's a great rivalry," Barkley said. "It's always a fun game to play against a team like that. Two teams in the same area, share the same stadium, bragging rights for a long time til the next time they see each other. I'm excited. Definitely excited. For me personally, I didn't really have too great a game the last time I went against these guys. That was years ago, but that still weighs heavy on my mind. I get an opportunity to go out there against a really good team, a really good defense, and they're playing really well, on a high level. Try to continue to get this winning streak going."
"Played them a lot in the preseason, but I never got a chance to play them in the regular season," Shepard said. "So, yeah, looking forward to it. It's a big game for us, we understand the importance of the game, just like any other one. But, yeah, this one has a little bit more hype to it and around it."
Barkley, quarterback Daniel Jones, wide receiver Darius Slayton, defensive linemen Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence are the only Giants who played in the 2019 game and are still on the roster. Linebacker Oshane Ximines is on the practice squad. Jones threw for 308 yards and four touchdowns, including two to fellow rookie Slayton, who had game-high totals of 10 receptions for 131 yards.
Williams had three tackles and four quarterback hits just 12 days after he was traded to the Giants from the Jets for a pair of draft choices. Tomorrow is the four-year anniversary of the deal and marks approximately the first halfway point of his nine-year career. Williams has played 71 games for the Jets and 62 for the Giants (including two postseason games).
"I'll forever be grateful to the Jets for giving me my first opportunity in the NFL by drafting me there," Williams said. "But I've been with the Giants so long now that the Jets almost feel pretty distant to me at this point. Like when I see the Jets on the schedule, it's not like something I'm like, 'Woah, I used to play there' you know? I kind of just see them as another opponent on the schedule at this point. But around this time when we finally have them up this week is when I started to get messages from old teammates and stuff like that, that bring it up. But I forget about it until those moments. But you know it's always exciting to play in this game."
Williams was a rookie when he had five tackles (four solo), including a four-yard sack of Eli Manning, in the Jets' 23-20 overtime victory on Dec. 6, 2015.
"Throughout my career, no matter what coach I played for, they try to let you know that it's a big game to the people of New York and the fans of both teams," Williams said. "But at the same time, it's good (for) the team to treat it like a regular week. Just like every game, we don't want to get too high or too low, after a win or after a loss, or leading up to a game, even. We never like to try to get too high or too low. As far as players and coaches, I think we try to treat it as a regular game and prepare the same way we would."
The Giants have other personnel with Jets connections. Brian Daboll was the Jets' quarterbacks coach in 2007-08, the latter season when Hall of Famer Brett Favre played for the team. Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey held the same position with the Jets in 2014. Defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson and assistant defensive line coach Bryan Cox both played and coached with the Jets. Safety Jason Pinnock played for the Jets in 2021.
Now they've switched sides and colors in the MetLife rivalry.
"It's a big one because it's two New York teams," Williams said. "We also play in the same stadium. I think for the fans, they love to see it. This area is known for the blue-collar type of people, so it's a gritty, type of old-school football per se. I think fans love to see it."
"There'll probably be hopefully a ton of Giants fans there, I'm assuming there are," Daboll said. "They've been great all year. Obviously, there'll be some Jets fans there. So, got to do a good job. We practiced noise in both areas, offense, defense. There's going to be quite a bit of fans there. It's an important game for both teams. Got a lot of respect for this tradition, the competitiveness. Every four years, we get a chance to play one another in the regular season, so anticipate it being loud."
"The Jets-Giants rivalry, obviously, is big for the city," McGaughey said. "I've been on both sides of it, so you know what it's like. It'll be a great atmosphere on Sunday, it'll be fun driving through the parking lot and seeing all the Jets and Giants fans and it's something that the city talks about all year around for bragging rights. So, it'll be fun, it'll be fun to watch."
View rare photos from the local rivalry between the Giants and Jets.
*Tyrod Taylor will start his third consecutive game at quarterback for the Giants because Daniel Jones remains sidelined with a neck injury. Taylor is 4-3 as a starter vs. the Jets, including 1-1 in MetLife. His numbers against the Jets include 119 completions in 194 attempts (61.3)%, 1,323 yards, 10 touchdown passes, three interceptions, 23 sacks and a passer rating of 92.4. Taylor also has 42 rushing attempts for 220 yards and two touchdowns.
*Before the Jets won the last two games, the Giants had a five-game winning streak in the series from 1996-2011. The Giants hold a 8-6 lead in the series that began with a 22-10 Giants victory in 1970.
*The Giants defeated Washington last week, while the Jets beat Philadelphia on Oct. 15 before their bye. This is the first Giants-Jets meeting in which both teams won their previous game since Dec. 18, 1988. The Giants were 10-5 and would have clinched the NFC East with a victory, while the Jets were 7-7-1. But Ken O'Brien threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Al Toon with 37 seconds remaining to give the Jets a 27-21 victory, eliminating the Giants from the playoffs.
*Barkley, who had a season-high 118 scrimmage yards last week vs. Washington, has three of the Giants' seven offensive touchdowns this season – despite missing three games with a sprained ankle.
*The Giants' allowed 10.5 points-per-game the last two games, the fewest in the NFL in Weeks 6-7.
View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the Week 8 matchup against the New York Jets.