Look at the state of New York through the first four games of the season.
Football fans from across the Empire State — and certain parts of New Jersey, Connecticut, and Canada — have reason to enjoy watching their teams through the first month of the NFL season. Three franchises that have spent the majority of the new millennium far away from contention, and many times immersed in embarrassment, are sitting pretty nearly a quarter of the way through the 2022 season.
Of course, the Buffalo Bills were the championship favorite to begin the season, but they did lose in swamp-like conditions a week ago in Miami, and had to battle their way through another road game on Sunday. The New York Giants lost at home to their division rival Dallas Cowboys last week, and the New York Jets fell behind early to the 2021 AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals and were never heard from again.
All three recovered with hard-fought victories in Week 4. Even with all of their injury issues, the Bills are still arguably the class of the NFL, and the Jets and Giants showed that while they might win ugly, maybe that’s what is necessary for an NFL with most trainers hurling gauze and ice at players and sprinting around the locker room with theraguns trying keep as many of them on the field as possible.
Week 4 of the 2022 season proved to be a checkpoint victory for all of the teams that represent New York.
Concussion protocol was on everyone’s mind this week after 11 days of Tua Tagovailoa and his back injury/head injury/fencing response. So when Tyrod Taylor was forced into action after that tight MetLife Stadium turf turned Daniel Jones’ ankle, Giants and Chicago Bears fans were watching to see how well he would play, and more important eyes were ready to make sure his helmet was taken if at any point he looked at all woozy, like he did with the Giants up five points almost midway through the fourth quarter. Taylor took a double shot from the Bears near the sideline and was forced to leave the game. He eventually jogged to the locker room after he was examined in the blue tent. This forced Jones back under center, because in the modern-day NFL, it’s more beneficial to have an extra lineman or special teams player on the active roster than a third-string quarterback.
Jones finished the game for the Giants by doing as close to nothing as possible for a starting NFL quarterback. After the Taylor injury, Jones literally didn’t line up at quarterback for the rest of the drive. The Giants ran The Wildcat and kicked a field goal to go up eight points. When the ball was in his hands later, all he did was hand it off. With the Bears somehow reaching a new low with the ball in their possession with the world’s worst 3rd-and-2 play and a muffed punt, the Giants are now 3-1.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Jets were both 1-2 going into their Week 4 matchup. The Steelers are dealing with personnel deficiencies on offense on top of an injury to their best player — T.J. Watt.
Injury news for the Jets was much more positive coming into Week 4. Their 2021 No. 2 overall pick — Zach Wilson — returned to the field after suffering an injury in the preseason opener. He threw two picks in the game, though the second one wasn’t his fault.
The Steelers made their own change at quarterback, benching Mitchell Trubisky and putting their 2022 first-round pick — Kenny Pickett — behind center to a roaring cheer from the home crowd. When the Steelers scored a quick touchdown after that second Jets pick, you would’ve thought 2016 Ben Roethlisberger had returned to the field judging by the crowd reaction.
Pickett made Steeler Nation happy, but his three incompletions that doubled as interceptions, showed there’s a lot of improvement that needs to take place. That is reasonable for a young quarterback to have a lot to learn in the NFL, but doing it behind the porous Steelers offensive line could be a problem that results in Mike Tomlin’s first losing season as head coach.
On the Jets side, no receiver averaged less than 14.8 yards per reception on Sunday, with three averaging 17, or more. It was Corey Davis who averaged the least, but led the team in receptions, and was there for the big plays when Wilson needed him.
With Wilson out the first three weeks, there was every reason to believe that the Jets would need the utmost of fortunes to start this season 1-3. Instead, they’re one of eight AFC teams at 2-2 through four weeks — the most competitive of the two conferences. That’s damn near worthy of one of those MLB playoff-clinching celebrations.
Do New Yorkers consider the Bills part of New York, of course not. They’re quick to remind Long Island and Northern New Jersey that they don’t live in the five boroughs, and Staten Island is treated like a cousin who only comes around to ask for money.
That’s why I’ve always enjoyed reminding people from the Big Apple that — technically — the only NFL team that plays in New York is the Buffalo Bills. I don’t want to hear that MetLife Stadium is just outside the Lincoln Tunnel. You all know good and well that you would have something to say to someone from East Rutherford, N.J. who claimed New York.
So New York’s team entered this season with its highest expectations in more than 30 years. They more than lived up to them through two weeks, but maybe throwing 60-plus passes when it’s 100 degrees on the field in South Florida humidity isn’t the best idea.
They were on the road again against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4, and went down 20-3 in the second quarter. However, for those whose Sundays are consumed by NFL RedZone, there’s a reason it may have felt like you didn’t see much Lamar Jackson for two hours. The Ravens’ offense was ineffective for most of the game.
The Ravens only put together two drives that totaled 40-plus yards the entire game, but that 90-plus yard drive in the fourth quarter looked like it was going to give them the victory, especially after that 3rd-and-12 run by Jackson for a first down. Well, the Ravens went for the touchdown on 4th-and-goal from the two-yard line, instead of a field goal to go up by three, and when pressured Jackson threw the ball off his backfoot for an interception.
That’s when the Bills did what champions do, and why their state needs to rally around them even if their fans jump through tables and one even willingly covers himself in ketchup and mustard. With just over four minutes remaining in the game, the Bills marched down the field, ate up all of the clock, and won the game on a field goal which gave them 20 unanswered points on the day.