Giants like flying under radar amid Aaron Rodgers, Jets hype

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Follow the money. It always seems to tell the true story of what is happening, especially when it applies to the NFL.

In the case of the New York City area football teams, all you need to do is peruse the ticket market for their opening games this week. A seat in section 113, row 11 right behind the home bench for the New York Jets’ opener on Monday night against the Buffalo Bills is being sold for $4,500 per seat on Ticketmaster. The same row, section, two seats over for the New York Giants’ opener on Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys is going for $1,932, a cool 57% off compared to the Jets. And these are verified resale tickets from Ticketmaster, which is the official ticket marketplace for the NFL.

Consider this the Aaron Rodgers factor. The legendary Green Bay Packers quarterback will be making his Jets debut on Monday night. It’s the talk of the town, and the NFL.

It has been that way since Rodgers joined the Jets and made his way to the New York metropolitan area in April. The Giants have flown more under the radar, even if they are the team coming off a promising season that included a playoff win. The Jets, meanwhile, haven’t been to the postseason in a dozen years but have stolen the spotlight with their brash talk and the Rodgers intrigue.

“That is how we like it,” said defensive lineman Leonard Williams, a Giants captain who began his career with the Jets. “We don’t have a bunch of guys that need a lot of attention to feel good about ourselves or anything like that. Not saying [the Jets] do or anything like that, but I don’t think that is what this team is striving for -- to be in the [spotlight].

“At the end of the day, we just want to win.”

In most years, the Giants would have been front and center, regularly plastered on the covers of the local tabloids. They are the storied local franchise with four Super Bowl trophies sitting proudly in their lobby. They are the ones that signed their quarterback, Daniel Jones, to a $160 million deal and failed to strike a long-term agreement this offseason with running back Saquon Barkley, the biggest football star in the city before Rodgers’ arrival.

“I think we’re still the big brothers,” Giants safety Xavier McKinney said. “I don’t care who they got. Obviously it’s always respect, but this is New York/[New] Jersey, this is still going to be a Giants place. It’s always been like that. It’s always going to continue to be that way.

“It's just what it is. It’s like in [Los Angeles] when you got, for basketball, the Clippers and you got the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s the same aspect.”

After some back and forth following their preseason encounter on Aug. 26 at MetLife Stadium and Rodgers calling it “JetLife Stadium” on “Hard Knocks,” local supremacy will be decided when the two teams meet on Oct. 29.

Before then, both teams have plenty to prove: The Jets that they are for real and the Giants that last year wasn’t a fluke.

The Giants have followed coach Brian Daboll’s lead from Day 1 by insisting they are only worried about today and what’s in front of them. It is the NFC East that is at the forefront of the Giants’ minds, as they open the season against the division rival Cowboys, who were a 3.5-point favorite as of Thursday afternoon.

The Giants were swept by the Cowboys last year and went 1-5-1 against their own division (including the playoffs). If they can’t beat the Cowboys in prime time at home in their home opener, it’s hard to imagine a different result later in the season in Dallas or in either matchup against the still-loaded Philadelphia Eagles.

This will be an early litmus test for Daboll’s crew against a Cowboys team that has won 11 of the past 12 matchups.

“It’s a big divisional game for us. All of the divisional games are certainly big. A matchup with a lot of tradition and history. So it’s a big deal,” Jones said. “But it’s about what we do. It’s about how we play and taking care of our business first.”

It resembles the last time the Jets were the “it” team with Rex Ryan as head coach from 2009-14. The Giants laid low and stole the spotlight by winning Super Bowls.

“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t turn on that television and hear about the Jets, or the Cowboys, and that is just the way the Giants like it,” former Giant wide receiver Victor Cruz said recently.

The Giants are in good shape entering Week 1. Behind an approach rooted in sports science, they did not suffer a serious injury to a starter this summer. They’re healthy and a better team, with improved weapons that include No. 1 receiver Darren Waller at tight end.

Daboll and Schoen also had the benefit of a training camp sans drama, which allowed them to avoid the pitfalls that could’ve come with a Barkley holdout.

They added speed, on both sides of the ball, and improved their weapons. They are also banking on jumps from a multitude of young players in Year 2 in this system.

Publicly, the Giants aren’t speaking big like their crosstown rivals. Behind the scenes, they have made it clear that their goals are bigger than just making the playoffs. Veteran wide receiver Sterling Shepard let it slip at the start of camp that Daboll tells them every day that their “ultimate goal is to put a banner up.”

It’s not just about finally catching up to the rival Eagles and Cowboys. It’s about reaching that next level.

“I don’t want to talk about building,” defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence said earlier this summer. “It’s more about doing at this point.”