EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When the NFL chose the Giants and Jets to host the 2014 Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium, there was some wishful thinking in the area that the locals might somehow find a way to play in the first cold-weather title game in the modern era.
The annual preseason game for the bragging rights tonight would then be a preview to a February showdown in front of the world.
Yup. It was wishful thinking.
With the 2013 regular season opener just weeks away, the Giants (1-1) and Jets (1-1) are longshots to reach the Super Bowl. Neither made the playoffs last year and neither is favored to win their division this season.
The Jets are still looking for a quarterback. The Giants need a defense. And both Rex Ryan and Tom Coughlin have a ton of questions to answer.
Coughlin, who led the Giants to Super Bowl titles in 2008 and 2012, hasn’t avoided talking about the big game being in the backyard. There is a countdown clock in the Giants locker room.
"That’s a nice thing to be aware of," Coughlin said. "But we have a long way to go to be in that situation. But lofty goals? Yeah. There are 32 teams that the Super Bowl championship is their goal right now. But we have to make sure we take care of all the nuts and bolts in order to get to a position where you’re even able to compete for something like that.
"Yes, it is a reminder. It’s all positive, provided all the work that has to go into it prevails."
The Giants have undergone changes since missing the playoffs with a 9-7 record. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw was let go in a salary-cap move and defensive tackle Chris Canty and linebacker Michael Boley were released from a defense that finished 31st overall.
So far this season, injuries have forced the offensive line to change two spots and kept defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul off the field. Eli Manning has managed one touchdown drive in two preseason games, and the defense still has not generated a pass rush.
"It’s always a big game," said Manning, whose favorite target, Victor Cruz, will be out with a heel injury. "Most times it’s the third preseason game. The starters are going to play a bunch. It’s an important game for us to go out there and try to play well."
The game is even more important for the Jets. Rookie Geno Smith, a second-round draft pick, will start at quarterback in his bid to take the job from Mark Sanchez.
Ryan also hopes to give Chris Ivory more work at running back and to get a little more out of his defense, which has been so-so in the preseason.
Playing the Giants, however, seems raise the interest level.
Jets guard Willie Colon was raised in New York City and attended Hofstra, so he is very familiar with the rivalry despite experiencing it for the first time as a player.
"It’s another challenge for us to go out there and show up and get ready for the season," Colon said. "They have a good outfit. Their championships speak (volumes) for them and for us we’re trying to get on the ball and get things going, so it’s going to be a great night for us."
Before coming to the Giants in 2011, punter Steve Weatherford played for the Jets. He said the rivalry always ratchets things up a little, even in the preseason.
"If we win the game, that’s just the cherry on the top," Weatherford said. "We just want to stay healthy."
Giants veteran cornerback Corey Webster smiled when asked about the Jets.
"I don’t think about the Jets at all," said Webster, who is going to miss his second straight game with groin and knee injuries. "That’s not disrespect or anything. They are an NFL team from across town and I wish them all the best, but we’re focused on us. There is a little rivalry when you have two teams in the same town sharing a whole bunch of stuff.
"But ultimately, I want to win every game and it doesn’t matter who we are playing."