Are the Jets ready for a playoff push on the national stage?
Carrie Underwood is capable of lyrical bliss that can appeal to both the football fan and those who embark upon less stressful Sundays. But even she would have trouble making the hypothetical line “Waiting 11 Years For Sunday Night.”
That’s how long it’s been since the New York Jets have graced the peacock-branded airwaves of NBC on a Sunday night, a 37-16 loss at the hands of the New England Patriots in November 2011. Yes, the Jets made an NBC appearance on Thanksgiving in 2012 … but the less said about that the better, of course.
To put that in perspective, characters like Michael Scott and Leslie Knope have produced new material for the network more recently than the Jets. Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig were in the midst of their final seasons on “Saturday Night Live” on the night before that loss to the Patriots aired. Any Donald Trump appearances came on “The Apprentice” rather than “NBC Nightly News.”
“Not Ready for Prime Time Players” would be the perfect way to define the Jets of recent seasons but they’re finally proving themselves worthy of loftier television heights. True to their star-crossed fashion, even a break from the losing norm isn’t without controversy thanks to a continued losing streak against the hated New England Patriots and a quarterback question.
It stands to reason, however, that the Jets, seemingly staples of the 1 p.m. ET Sunday slot, may be ready for night games under the NFL’s flexible scheduling procedures, ones that put high-value contests at either 4:25 or 8:20. The cult that Mike White continues to amass thanks to his performance against the Bears should only make the Jets’ remaining contests all the more valuable to the league’s TV partners.
Introduced in 2006, the Jets are used to being involved in the flexible scheduling conversation: matchups against the San Diego Chargers (2012) and New England (2016) were removed from the Sunday night docket to make room for more attractive meaningful matchups. While the Sunday night game may not change, there’s room for Jets games to be flexed into a more exclusive 4 p.m. window away from the crowded chaos of the early 1 p.m. slot.
It was perhaps surprising that the Jets’ matchups against the Patriots and Minnesota Vikings (slated for Dec. 4 and thus out of the minimum 12-day notice for flexing) were not slated for relocation. That doesn’t exclude their remaining games, though.
The Jets’ upcoming interconference game against Minnesota is not eligible for flexing as it lies within a week of kickoff. New York’s only regularly scheduled exclusive window game, a Dec. 22 showdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars, is also not eligible, as Thursday night games cannot be flexed.
Week 14: at Buffalo
The respective resurgences of the Jets and their blue MetLife Stadium co-tenants … even if each is dealing with their own brands of controversy … create an interesting conundrum for Week 14. Once a rare occurrence, the Jets and Giants’ often-dreary games have often been paired in Sunday’s 1 p.m. slot, perhaps the NFL’s way of saying “let’s get this over with.” Each faces a vital test as the pink Advent candle is lit: as the Jets battle the Bills, the Giants face the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles.
Letting the folks who “root for New York” have their blue and green cake and eat it too could prove difficult: the three games in the current 4 p.m. window are on the West Coast (LA Chargers, San Francisco, Seattle), as is a presumptive blowout in the late game (Kansas City at Denver). The Jets’ rematch with the Bills (where the Jets will look for their first sweep since 2016) undoubtedly deserves a slot with more eyeballs, but logistics make that quite difficult.
Prediction: Stays at 1
Week 15: Detroit
This game, admittedly, might have a little more meaning than projected. Winners of three in a row before a heartbreaking loss to the Bills on Thursday, Detroit (4-7) lingers at the cusp of NFC Wild Card contention and owns valuable tiebreakers against the Giants and Washington Commanders.
There’s also a bit of history packed in this rare meeting: the game comes three days before the 25th anniversary of the Jets and Lions’ Week 17 showdown at the Pontiac Silverdome, when Detroit overcame a devastating injury to linebacker Reggie Brown to earn a 13-10 win and playoff berth, eliminating the Jets in the process.
But even with a lackluster Sunday nighter (New England at Las Vegas), it’s highly unlikely this one moves, especially considering that it’ll likely be the 1 p.m. headliner for Week 15. Five games (including an interesting Miami at Buffalo showdown) are eligible for a shift to Saturday night, but Jets-Lions is out of that realm.
Prediction: Stays at 1
Week 17: at Seattle
i really really enjoyed this throw and i believe these types of throws and patience from geno smith is why he’s succeeding so much pic.twitter.com/aoZJq6gtv1
— bry 🦉 (@Kelenicc) November 15, 2022
Let’s hope that the Jets’ New Year’s Resolution doesn’t involve letting the past go. East meets West not at the Rose Bowl but at Lumen Field, where the Jets take on the Seahawks by virtue of each side’s respective last-place finishes in their division in 2021 (part of the adjusted scheduling formula that grants teams a 17th regular season game).
The “worst-to-first” potential is just one of the headlines stemming from this one: the Seahawks (6-5) could be going for a division title with Geno Smith at quarterback. Prior to this season, Smith was of course best known for his brief yet eventful tenure in the Jets’ franchise role. Meanwhile, after certain recent events … who knows what the Gang Green quarterback situation will look like come the calendar flip.
If anything, the Jets have ensured that they’re taken care of in areas beyond the passer thanks in part to the trade that sent Jamal Adams to the Pacific Northwest (which netted the picks that eventually became Garrett Wilson and Alijah Vera-Tucker). Whether they like it or not, the success of these two teams is conjoined at the hip.
There’s some sizable competition in the Sunday night slot; a SoFi Stadium SoCal strife between the Los Angeles Chargers and Rams will likely net big ratings despite the latter’s de facto elimination. But there might be too many exciting storylines and postseason implications to bypass. If the Jets are going to finally break through to NBC’s airwaves, this feels like their best shot.
Prediction: Flexed to 8
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) October 9, 2022
Week 18: at Miami
Technically speaking, it’s impossible for the Jets’ Week 18 rematch with the Dolphins to be truly flexed, as no regular-season finale game is scheduled just yet. In addition to the Sunday night finish (the 272nd and final regular season game on the NFL regular season calendar), the league is enacting a pair of Saturday games that will presumably hold equal postseason importance.
It’s safe to say that both AFC East matchups on the final week of the season (New England also goes to Buffalo) are already on the shortlist for the exclusive windows. It’ll likely further depend if a division crown is on the line (as could be the case in Tampa Bay-Atlanta and Baltimore-Cincinnati) but a win-or-go-home game could make things even more exciting. The Jets-Dolphins series is familiar with such a concept … but, again, the less said there, the better.
In either case, prepare for a late weekend, whether it comes at 4 or 8.
Prediction: Live From South Beach, It’s Saturday Night Football
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags