When can New York Jets fans expect to see their team in prime time? ESM investigates with the official schedules on their way out tonight.
Nothing showcases the stranglehold that the NFL holds on the American imagination than the release of its annual schedule. The 2021 edition emerges on Wednesday, with early game reveals scheduled for the morning programs of Fox, CBS, and ABC (Fox & Friends, CBS This Morning, and Good Morning America respectively) before the full schedule is posted in prime time.
Contrary to the popular belief that performance dictates how “easy” or “hard” a team’s schedule is, there’s hardly any surprise involved when it comes to an individual team’s opponents. By the time we get to Wednesday’s reveals, everyone knows who their team is going to play in 2021. Heck, the NFL’s scheduling formula allows us to look to, say, 2049, and figure out all but three opponents for the year ahead. But the mere attachment of times and dates causes we, the football-hungry public, to break out into hysterics, a process and celebration that the league has now turned into an all-day affair.
The drama of schedule release day has been relatively benign for fans of the New York Jets. Trapped in a playoff drought that just hit double figures, the Jets have mostly been bestowed the comparatively mundane 1:00 p.m. ET timeslot in a majority of their contests. For example, they haven’t been a part of NBC’s Sunday Night Football package since 2011, seeing several other opportunities to appear on the peacock network erased by flexible scheduling.
But with the arrival of head coach Robert Saleh and offensive weapons, the young Jets could be worth watching and putting on a national stage again. Putting them in the playoff discussion might be a tad much, but there’s no doubt whatsoever that the Jets are in a much more intriguing spot than they were last year. Suddenly, there’s drama behidn the numbers again.
Which games could get the national call? ESM takes a look at five…
1. @ Carolina Panthers
There’s not much history between the Jets and Panthers. The teams have met only seven times and last faced off in Charlotte in 2013. But the Sam Darnold…and, to a lesser extent, Robby Anderson…factor changes everything. The new New York guard…Zach Wilson and Elijah Moore…going up against the old…Darnold and Robby Anderson…makes this a game the Jets could use as a barometer to see where they are in the latest chapter of their rebuild.
The Jets and Panthers may not be fighting for postseason position this year, but they’re in remarkably similar spots: trapped in a division with a powerful conference finalist that shows no signs of relenting, but equipped with hope through young offensive weaponry.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
Whether they like it or not, Wilson and Trevor Lawrence are forever linked through their status as the opening two picks of the 2021 NFL Draft. Despite the Jets and Jaguars’ recent ineptitude…the two united for three wins last season…this will be an attractive game for the rookie throwers alone. But there’s so much young talent from the past few drafts that the game should probably be called by Mel Kiper and Todd McShay. Wilson is aided by Moore, Denzel Mims, and Michael Carter, while the Jacksonville side is further repped by DJ Chark, Laviska Chenault, and Travis Etienne.
On top of it all, it well could feature Tim Tebow’s return to MetLife Stadium, the site of some of his most recent NFL regular season action. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves…
3. Buffalo Bills
The divisional rivalry loses a little luster with the loss of Darnold, Josh Allen’s fellow 2018 draftee. But Buffalo tightened its grip on the hearts of Empire State football with a downright historic season that ended in the AFC Championship Game. Divisional rivalries tend to get priority placement when it comes to the national TV schedule and the Bills would be the most attractive opponent to place in the slot with the New York connections in mind.
4. New England Patriots
The Jets-Patriots rivalry is at an interesting point in that both teams are reeling from losing seasons. But even in their unfamiliar squalor, the Patriots managed to sweep their yearly pair with the Jets last season. A new chapter of the rivalry begins with both teams boasting first-round quarterbacks: Wilson emerges for the Jets while the Patriots counter with Mac Jones.
New York-Boston rivalries always get national attention and the Jets-Patriots matchup has received a Monday Night date in each of the last two seasons. But the two teams’ status as AFC East also-rans, not to mention the uncertainty around the idea of Jones starting (you know Cam Newton won’t go down without a fight) could raise some red flags.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Just when you thought the Tom Brady nightmare was over, the seven-time Super Bowl champion returns for (at least) one last scare in the form of an interconference game with the defending champions. Networks have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with New York schadenfreude, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see Brady’s reunion with his old metropolitan buddies get the national treatment.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags