The Super Bowl is just over a week away, so with that in mind, it’s as good a time as ever to see how New York’s professional franchises stack up in their quests to become champions again.
The New York championship drought is only five years — the 2011-12 Giants — but for impatient New York sports fans, that can seem like a lifetime ago. Naturally, fans of the Knicks and Mets can honestly say that 1973 and 1986 is a lifetime ago, but for a town that became accustomed to holding parades down the Canyon of Heroes on a near annual basis, Big Blue’s last title dalliance does seem like a long wait.
New Yorkers feel it’s time to get that championship feeling back, which is why Metro will delve into the top contenders — in order of most likely to end the drought all the way to the least likely — detailing the five best candidates and then rounding out all the rest.
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1. New York Giants
Eli Manning’s window is closing — and Big Blue is absolutely doomed if he ever suffers a significant injury — but there’s lots to like about the Giants’ chances of ending their five-year Super Bowl hiatus. First, that defense — the $200 million defense — is a championship-level unit, despite what Aaron Rodgers did to them in the playoffs. The last time they won the championship, Manning and company were led by Tom Coughlin, who directed them to two titles during his tenure. Ben McAdoo is now the man in charge, and during his maiden voyage as lead man, he led them to 10 wins. The future is still bright — as long as Manning is upright — because general manager Jerry Reese has finally started opening up team owner John Mara’s wallet and acquire the necessary talent. The Giants still need more offensive options outside of Odell Beckham Jr., and need to fix the offensive line. But if history has taught anything, any time Manning and the Giants get into the postseason, they’re as dangerous as any team in the NFL.
2. New York Mets
The Amazins last won the World Series in 1986 when they rolled out a roster that included Gary Carter, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Mookie Wilson — and honorary Met for the night, Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, whose historical error sealed Game 6 for the Mets and propelled them to a Game 7 win. There’s no one on the current roster that carries that cachet, but there’s still plenty of talent — enough to help the team get back to a World Series berth for the first time since 2015, when they lost in five games to the Kansas City Royals. The pitching staff has been riddled with injuries over the years, but there’s youthful talent abound if they can all regain their health. The starting rotation lights up the radar gun like no staff in baseball, but the question will always remain about their abilities to stay healthy. 2017 will feature four starters returning from some sort of surgery, to go along with flame-throwing Noah Syndergaard. So, if they’re able to consistently remain in the rotation, the Mets will get right back into the World Series hunt.
3. New York Rangers
They’re currently 31-16-1, good for fourth in the Metropolitan Division. They began the season as one of the top teams in the league, mostly thanks to their lethal power play, but that seems so long ago. The key to any Rangers’ playoff run will always lie at the skates of goalie Henrik Lundqvist, but he’s been struggling lately. Once the unquestioned best goalie in the league, Lundqvist just hasn’t looked like the confident goaltender which Ranger fans came to know and worship. The team’s Big 3 (Rick Nash, Pavel Buchnevich and Mika Zibanejad) have been inconsistent for most of the season — when they’re actually all on the ice together, as injuries have hampered the cohesion. Nash, in particular, doesn’t look like himself with issues to his groin. And without his scoring prowess, the Blue Shirts will need to generate offense elsewhere to provide Lundqvist with the necessary support. The good thing about the NHL is that the best team doesn’t always win the title, the hottest team usually does. And if their prized scorers start lighting the lamp and Lundqvist regains his regal form, the Rangers have a great shot of raising the Cup for the first time since 1994.
4. New York Yankees
The Bronx Bombers used to have a monopoly on titles, but they haven’t won the World Series since 2009, meaning there’s an 8-year-old wondering if the Yanks will ever win a title in their lifetime. The last time the Yankees won the title was in 2015, but the closest they came to earning a trip to the World Series was in 2010, when they reached the ALCS and lost in six games to the Texas Rangers. According to ESPN’s rankings, the Yanks have the second-best farm system in the league, which makes for a delicate balance for general manager Brian Cashman, who has publicly stated the need to get younger and create payroll flexibility while still keeping an eye on future free agency prizes like Bryce Harper, Matt Harvey and Manny Machado. 2017 will be a retooling year, but there’s enough young talent to push the Yankees into postseason contention — on the backs of guys like Gary Sanchez, 2016 first-rounder Blake Rutherford, 2015 first-rounder James Kaprielian, Greg Bird, Jorge Mateo, Chance Adams and Aaron Judge. These Baby Bombers could one day form the next great Yankee dynasty.
5. New York Knicks
Just seven months ago, on paper and sheer hope alone, the Knicks would’ve been higher on this list. Team president Phil Jackson had appeared to have built a legitimate contender by surrounding Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis with guys like new head coach Jeff Hornacek, point guard Derrick Rose, center Joakim Noah and point guard Brandon Jennings — not to mention some solid rare finds in Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Willy Hernangomez. But since a promising 14-10 start where they were sitting as a top-four squad in the Eastern Conference, the Knicks have been in a free fall. Hope has been dashed with a stretch that’s included just four wins in the last 17 outings, as the Knicks are now the 11th seed in an eight-team conference playoff race. Looks like yet another season without a playoff berth, which means yet another season without even a sniff at the title. The 1973 drought will continue for a while longer.
Here are the rest of New York’s title hopefuls, in order of likelihood:
6. New York Red Bulls
7. New York Islanders
9. New York Liberty
10. New York Jets
11. Brooklyn Nets