NY Jets’ schedule features historic lack of a familiar type of game

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By: Michael Nania

Ordinary Sunday afternoons are a rarity on New York Jets’ 2023 schedule

Say goodbye to your classic 1 p.m. New York Jets game on Sunday afternoon.

The Jets had been a fixture in the NFL’s Sunday 1 p.m. window for quite a few years. For the vast majority of each season, Jets fans could plan to watch their team in the early window on Sunday afternoon. Exceptions were rare.

But in the 2023 season, 1 p.m. games will be a rarity for the Jets – to a historic degree.

New York’s 2023 schedule currently features only six 1 p.m. games. That would tie for the fewest by a Jets team since 1970 (as far back as data is available, courtesy of Pro Football Reference), equaling the totals of the 1982, 2000, and 2003 Jets teams.

Considering those three teams played 9, 16, and 16 games, respectively, the 2023 Jets would set a franchise record (since 1970) for the lowest percentage of games being played at 1 p.m., at 35% (6 of 17).

It’s more likely that the Jets play seven 1 p.m. games, as their Week 18 game against the Patriots is labeled as TBD and will most likely become the seventh 1 p.m. game unless it is chosen as one of the few games out of 16 options to be flexed into a prime-time window. Of course, Jets-Patriots could certainly end up being one of the best choices for a prime-time flex, so we cannot rule out the possibility.

If the Jets do increase to seven 1 p.m. games, they would move into a tie for the fourth-fewest in franchise history since 1970, along with the 2010, 2005, 1999, 1986, and 1983 teams.

This is an enormous change for the Jets after spending the past few years as a fixture in the 1 p.m. window. Over the past six seasons (2017-22), the Jets played 75 games at 1 p.m. (12.5 per year), tying the Jaguars and Falcons for second-most over that span behind only the Lions’ 79 games. Most of those games weren’t enjoyable for Jets fans; their 51 losses at 1 p.m. led the NFL while their .320 win percentage (24-51 record) was better than only the Broncos’ .269 mark.

The Jets have never been a more prominent 1 p.m. fixture than they were over the past two seasons. They set a team record with 15 early games in 2021 and then fell one shy of the mark with 14 early games in 2022 (tying the 1978 team for second-most). In total, that’s 29 out of 34 Jets games (85%) landing in the early window over that two-year span. It’s a far cry from the 35% the Jets are currently expected to play in 2023 (41% if the Patriots game falls at 1 p.m.).

The drastic decline in 1 p.m. games is largely because of New York’s grand total of six prime-time games, tying for the NFL lead.

However, the prime-time games are not the only cause. The Jets are also due for an increase in late-afternoon Sunday games, with four of them scheduled. This isn’t an unusual total on the surface – the franchise record is seven and the Jets had five as recently as 2020 – but what makes it unique is that it is not forced by west-coast games.

Two of the Jets’ late-afternoon games are in the Eastern Time Zone (Week 6 vs. Eagles and Week 11 at Bills) while a third is in the Central Time Zone (Week 2 at Cowboys). The Week 5 trip to Denver is the only game that was essentially required to fall in the late afternoon.

This means the Jets’ other three late-afternoon games were placed in that window because the networks viewed them as big-ticket matchups and wanted to place them in the coveted 4:25 window, which is only a small step down from a true prime-time game. Typically, those Bills, Eagles, and Cowboys games would be placed in the 1 p.m. window, but this is a different type of Jets team and the league wants them in the most prominent windows.

Long story short: Aaron Rodgers has turned the Jets from a mid-carder to a main-event attraction overnight.

More often than not, the Jets will be performing in front of an enormous audience. If they succeed, they’ll bask in national glory. But if they fail, their follies will be seen by the entire football world – contrary to previous years where most of the Jets’ struggles occurred in the shadows.

It makes for a high-reward, high-risk season. Regardless of whether the Jets thrive or struggle, they’ll be the talk of the league. Success will feel glorious – they won’t have to worry about being under-appreciated. But the failures will be magnified, creating agonizing, relentless pressure that can only be survived with unwavering resiliency and staunch mental toughness. If the Jets aren’t ready for the spotlight, the failures could spiral out of control and ultimately break the team’s spirit.

But if the Jets can fight through the raucous criticism that will arrive when they inevitably lose a game or two, this team has a chance to use the spotlight to its advantage. While there are certainly challenges that come with the spotlight, it also reveals who is cut out for the big stage and who is not. A season full of high-pressure games could be the perfect recipe to prepare this young Jets team for the massive stakes of the playoffs.

Not only that, but the limelight provides a golden opportunity for the Jets to finally reverse their reputation as a franchise.

The whole NFL world is conditioned to view the Jets as a joke. And rightfully so – what have the Jets done to prove them wrong? This reputation is the main reason why the 2023 Jets are poised to be somewhat of a villainous team in the eyes of many NFL fans. The national media is shoving the Jets down everyone’s throats, and if you’re not a Jets fan, that has to be frustrating. Sports fans despise it when the media force-feeds something to them, especially when it’s a team that is yet to earn respect through winning.

The average NFL fan’s mindset works something like this (if you’re on Twitter you have certainly read some variation of this): “A 7-10 team that missed the playoffs 12 years in a row gets a washed-up 40-year-old QB who missed the playoffs last year, and I’m supposed to respect them? Hilarious. I can’t wait to watch them stink it up yet again.” (Oftentimes it will be concluded with #BillsMafia or #FinsUp)

There’s never been a better chance for this franchise to make the average non-Jets fan eat their words. Everyone will have their eyes on them, week after week. Nothing they do will go unnoticed. So will they rise to the occasion and reverse the Jets’ reputation? Finally extending a helping hand to the long-suffering fans who get laughed at for wearing Jets gear and have no bragging rights to fight back with? Or will “Same Old Jets” persist?

Buckle up. We’re in for one of the most pivotal seasons in New York Jets history – and we won’t be watching alone. Alongside the Jets’ fans and media, the whole country will be watching every step of the journey, including many skeptics who are praying for the Jets’ downfall.

The stakes have never been higher. And what more could you ask for? Stakes are what make sports fun.

Next Article: What to know about every game on the NY Jets’ 2023 schedule 

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