By DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Pro Football Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — All the ego-bruising jokes, stinging cheap shots and embarrassing punchlines about New York football are falling flat now.
Want to laugh at the Giants and Jets?
Football in the Big Apple — OK, you, too, New Jersey — is rotten no more. But it certainly has been a while.
The Giants are 5-1 after an impressive 24-20 win over Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. The Jets are 4-2 after stunning Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Green Bay 27-10.
They’ve both won three straight games and simultaneously have winning records for the first time since 2015. Culture shifts in the facilities of both teams have stemmed from changes in the front offices and coaching staffs, building young player cores through the draft and injecting fresh approaches to advertising — and success.
“It’s something we’ve preached since Day One, since we’ve been here — coaches, people in the building — this league is hard,” Giants first-year head coach Brian Daboll said. “It’s not always going to be perfect. There will be a lot of people down on you. And you might be down on yourself, wish you could do better.
“But you keep on getting back up. You keep on swinging, keep on competing, regardless of the score or the situation of the game. And that’s not easy to do, right?”
Nope. Just ask any Giants or Jets fan who has endured lots of losing the past several years.
But their frustration has suddenly turned to cautious optimism. The usual griping on sports talk radio and social media has given way to daydreaming about playoff possibilities.
It’s the first time since 2010 both teams have won at least four of their first six games. And it’s only the sixth time since the 1970 merger it has happened.
The promising starts are a surprise to many — especially since the Giants haven’t been to the playoffs since 2016 and the Jets have the NFL’s longest current postseason drought at 11 seasons.
“The Jets are better than we thought,” Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy said Sunday during NBC’s “Football Night in America.” “Young guns just hustling, fighting, playing well and just getting the job done.”
The same can be said of the Giants, whose 5-1 start under Daboll is the team’s best since 2009.
“They’re just making the game close, waiting for you to make a mistake,” said Dungy’s on-air teammate Chris Simms — whose father Phil was part of two Super Bowl-winning Giants teams. “They’re very comfortable in those one-score games late in the fourth quarter.”
The Giants have overcome deficits of 10-plus points three times, with the win over Baltimore the latest. They also pulled off victories after being down 17-3 midway through the second quarter against the Packers in London two weeks ago, and trailing Tennessee 13-0 at halftime in the season opener.
Daboll’s squad is the fourth team to have three such wins in the first six games.
“We’re a team that fights all four quarters, every minute of the game,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. “And I think the best thing about this team is we don’t bend, we don’t fold, we don’t break and all that type of stuff.”
Still, the Giants are 3-point underdogs at 2-4 Jacksonville next Sunday, according to FanDuel.
Meanwhile, the Jets are off to their best start since 2015, when they also opened 4-2.
After the Jets lost their season opener to Baltimore, coach Robert Saleh insisted things were going to turn positive for the franchise.
“We’re all taking receipts on all the people who continually mock and say that we ain’t going to do anything,” Saleh said one game into his second season. “I’m taking receipts, and I’m going to be more than happy to share them with all y’all when it’s all said and done.”
It seemed funny then. Not anymore.
Even if the Jets, like the Giants, still aren’t getting much respect from bettors.
They opened as 3-point underdogs, according to FanDuel, at Denver against the 2-4 Broncos next Sunday. None of that matters to the Jets, who joined the 2001 Cleveland Browns as the only teams in the Super Bowl era to have a winning record despite being an underdog in each of its first six games.
“We have a lot of guys here that don’t care about what’s been said in the past about this organization,” said left tackle Duane Brown, in his first season with the Jets. “We’re here to write our own story — and so far, it’s been a pretty good one.”
During their winning streak, the Jets rallied from 10 points down at Pittsburgh to beat the Steelers in quarterback Zach Wilson’s season debut; they turned a close game against Miami into a blowout with a 21-point fourth quarter to end a 12-game skid vs. AFC East opponents; and then dominated the Packers at Lambeau Field.
“We’ve got to start expecting stuff like this,” Saleh said.
Even if it’s still tough for some outside the teams’ facilities to grasp.
Sure, the potshots could return in full force with a few losses. But for now, the armchair comedians need to find new material.
Laugh all you want, but these Giants and Jets are no joke.
AP Pro Football Writer Josh Dubow and AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed.
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