The NFL in New York and London… two cities that were bonded by growth in economic growth, political influence, and cultural trendsetting.
Now they’re bonded by American football.
The first city of which I am referring is London, England, a destination that is absolutely at the top of my bucket list, and the home of one of the most gorgeous arenas in the entire world, Wembley Stadium.
The NFL has been playing games in England for a while now, but it is the recent practice of putting them on TV at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday that piques my interest most highly. Unlike Thursday night NFL and Sunday night NFL and even, yes, Monday night NFL, I find early Sunday morning NFL highly enjoyable to watch, and it’s not even like there’s nothing else to watch on Sunday morning (there’s The Sports Reporters on ESPN, Fox News Sunday on Fox, Meet The Press on NBC and a plethora of other Sunday morning politics roundtables to choose from.
But watching live sports that early in the morning is just plain fun. It reminds me of 1976, when I was visiting my Aunt and Uncle in Palm Desert, California. Now it just so happened that the Phillies and the Pirates were the national game of the week on Saturday afternoon, except the 1:00 start time I was accustomed to as a lifelong member of the residents of the east coast got turned on its ear when I found myself in my pajamas, munching on cereal and watching live baseball at 10:00 a.m.
I heartily endorse the NFL continuing this practice and, to the extent practicable, perhaps expanding it to two games a year overseas. I know the travel and everything else is a nightmare, so maybe the NFL could just periodically schedule a nice 10:00 a.m. start once in a while.
I’d like it, anyway.
The other city is New York, home of the J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets. I had thought the Jets question resolved when they lost to a not particularly good Philadelphia Eagles team last week, in their own building, but it turns out I was quite wrong. The Jets are now 3-1, and while they haven’t played the world’s greatest schedule, I would note that their next four games after the bye are home vs. Washington, @New England, @Oakland and home again to face Jacksonville. Not only is a second 3-1 run possible, I’d argue it’s quite likely, and that barring the unforeseen injury, it is highly unlikely the Jets, Jets, Jets will go any worse than 2-2, 2-2, 2-2 over this stretch.
That means we’re looking at a 6-2 Jets team at the halfway mark.
And if you’re wondering if the Jets schedule gets much tougher, I can tell you right now that the five toughest games on that schedule are New England again, the Cowboys and Giants, and Buffalo twice. That’s not a list of world eaters by any stretch, and while I would have laughed in someone’s face even last week if they mentioned the word “playoffs,” I now have to concede that this is a very possible outcome of the Jets this season.
The other side of this coin, is that the way the Jets are winning is not so unfamiliar. They took a defense that was #6 last year, and added 6th overall pick Leonard Williams, and the defensive backfield tandem of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Last season, the Jets turnover-prone offense left their excellent defense as No. 24 in scoring defense because of all the short fields they were giving up.
This year, they’re No. 1.
They’re also creating turnovers, and while it is not always possible to game plan for this, I’ve found that teams that start causing turnovers every week tend to keep causing them every week.
As for the offense, Ryan Fitzpatrick, believe it or not, is having a fairly average (for him) season. It just so happens he’s got a better team around him now. He’s got a surefire receiving target in Brandon Marshall and Chris Ivory (believe it or not) is delivering a consistent and reliable, but not spectacular or eye-opening running game.
The fact is, the Jets are playing just a little better than the other guys, but the thing is — you don’t have to do any better than that. Jets fans may want to set aside some time in early January.
Somewhat unexpectedly, the Jets may be invited to the party.