It isn't often in a football season that players and coaches get a one-game chance to redeem everything that went wrong over the course of the year.
There's almost always too much at stake every single week to say that 60 minutes in Week 16 really matter more than all of the minutes leading up or the minutes that will follow in the final game of the season. Almost always leaves a little wiggle room, though, and we've got one of the rare exceptions coming our way in Saturday's Christmas Eve game between the Jets and Giants.
Because the future of the Jets and Giants hangs in the balance of their game and because the game already matters so much to the fans, people on both sides have a chance to rewrite the story of their seasons. To some that's a big bonus, but others could find that the harsh light of the Battle for the Meadowlands leaves people with a bad taste in their mouths.
We've already hit on the two head coaches, who both have plenty to lose, but there are plenty of others on both sides of the line.
Most to Gain
Mark Sanchez - It always has a way of coming back to Sanchez, doesn't it? This season hasn't been the breakthrough that people hoped to see and it hasn't even been the kind of gradual improvement that people would have accepted in the absence of said breakthrough. But if he can shred a suspect Giants secondary on Saturday, he would, at the very least, be able to once again point to his ability to come up big when the moment demanded it and that would be enough to nudge his year into a net positive.
Justin Tuck - Injuries probably explain a large portion of why Tuck has had such a miserable season, but that doesn't make it much easier to swallow what a non-factor he has been on the field in 2011. If he can summon a vintage performance on Saturday to help lead a bad defense to a crucial victory, it will be a lot easier to write all the bad things off on his health.
Perry Fewell - Things don't get much simpler for a defensive coordinator than the task Fewell has in front of him. Either he comes up with a plan to stop a mediocre Jets offense and restores some pride to the Giants defense or he makes it almost impossible to bring him back for another season.
Wayne Hunter - When the situation calls for it, Hunter has to stop Jason Pierre-Paul or risk the kind of big play that has made JPP one of 2011's breakout stars and Hunter one of its biggest flops. If he can do that, he'll have at least a fighting chance at starting for a second year.
Most to Lose
Darrelle Revis - Players who have called out Revis haven't had much success in the past, making Victor Cruz's decision to do it this week a bit questionable. But Revis has had some rough moments this season and a reappearance of them on Saturday afternoon would be disastrous for his status as the best corner in the game.
Eli Manning - When you're on the top of the mountain, the only place you can go is down. Manning has carried the Giants all season, but you probably won't be hearing too many epic odes to his clutchiness if he's part of the reason the Jets win on Saturday.
Brian Schottenheimer - It's pretty much the flip side of Fewell. If Schotty can't come up with a plan to beat this defense, what reason is there to believe he can come up with a plan to beat any defense?
Antrel Rolle - All year long we've been entertained by Rolle's weekly attempts to point fingers of blame at his teammates while refusing to step up and take responsibility for himself, but it won't be entertaining to have it happen in the biggest game of the season for his team. Rolle needs to step up, make some plays and actually be the leader he claims to be or he'll be exposed as nothing but a lot of talk with no walk.