As the clock struck midnight and 18th April arrived, the NFL released the full schedule of games for the 2012 season, throwing up a host of questions, leading to significant speculation, procrastination and conspiracy theories.
Much of the talk is premature, as rosters still lie incomplete, the draft has to take place and the second wave of Free Agency is in front of us, but there are matters of fact that can be analysed which will hold true regardless of the quality of opponents lining up.
For those of us in the UK the dates to watch are the Prime Time matchups, the 1:30am kickoffs and potentially the days to be booked off work in their aftermath. For the Jets, the late game schedule kicks off in Week 5 with a home tilt against Houston on Monday Night Football – that’s late on Monday 8th October/early Tuesday 9th October 2012 – before taking a sabbatical until Thanksgiving Night when the Jets, on three days’ rest, return from a trip to St. Louis to face the Patriots at Met Life Stadium, the visitors fresh off a cupcake game with Indianapolis at their own ground. That one takes place on Thursday night/Friday morning from 22nd into 23rd November.
The Thanksgiving game is the first of three schedules Prime Time games in a five week burst, with Monday Night Football travelling alongside the Jets to Tennessee in Week 15 (17th-18th December) and the following week seeing the NBC cameras in town for the visit of San Diego on 23rd December going into Christmas Eve. That game is subject to flexing. In the other direction our finalé at Buffalo, Tim Tebow’s homecoming at Jacksonville and Arizona’s visit are all eligible to be flexed to the relative Sunday nights, though none jumps out as a likelihood at this stage.
If 2011 form holds true (which rarely happens from one season to the next) the Jets will be facing a series of tough defenses early in the year (*cough* The NFL wants Tebow to start. [/tinfoilhat]) and will have to travel to Miami when the weather is warm. On the other hand, they play at Pittsburgh in week 2 when there is no chance of snow and welcome Arizona in the height of New York winter, conditions they have traditionally struggled with. Another major boost is that three of the four games with NFC West opponents will kickoff at 1pm, effectively a morning game for San Francisco and the Cardinals; whilst the other NFC West opponent, and the only west-coast trip of the year, Seattle, are faced coming off the bye week – itself well placed in Week 9, precisely mid-season.
There are highs and lows in the schedule, but it should set the Jets up nicely to enter the playoffs with momentum, despite three of the final four games coming on the road at Jacksonville, Tennessee and Buffalo.
The Thanksgiving game is the only real scheduling gripe and with so many other benefits, it does appear, on the face of things, to be a schedule that should not hinder the team in their efforts to return to the postseason.