The 2021 London Games are finally here! After a year hiatus due to the pandemic, football will be played outside of the US for the first time since 2019, and I for one cannot wait. It’s not very often that you get excited to watch two 1-3 teams, but any chance to see this sport live is golden here in the UK. On Sunday afternoon (2:30 PM) the Atlanta Falcons will play host to the New York Jets in front of a packed crowd at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Both teams have made the trip before, the Jets in 2015, and the Falcons in 2014. The latter famously blew a 21 point lead to the Detroit Lions, whilst the former beat the Dolphins. Even though these teams have two wins between them there’s plenty to look out for.
Former MVP down two key weapons
2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan is the biggest star on show this weekend, and rightly so. He’s still one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL fourteen seasons into his career. It’s not every game you get to see an exciting QB in London. This year we have four. Ryan is by far the most established of the bunch and will be looking to carve out a young Jets defense. He’s got his work cut out this weekend however, as two of his starting receivers (Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage) are out due to personal reasons and injury respectively.
This Falcons offense is going to look very different as Matty Ice is down to the likes of Olamide Zaccheaus and Tajae Sharpe at wideout. Luckily for him, he’s got Cordarelle Paterson, who’s having an excellent year, and Mike Davis in the backfield. Interestingly, the offensive line may struggle to protect Ryan on Sunday as the Jets D-line is very good, which means he’ll be looking to get the ball out to Paterson who I’d recommend picking up in fantasy this week. There’s also two first-round pick TE’s in Kyle Pitts (2021) and Hayden Hurst (Ravens, 2018.)
Jets coming off first win under Robert Saleh
Robert Saleh achieved his first win as a head coach last week against the Tennessee Titans. It was a great performance from the previously mentioned D-line who got to Ryan Tannehill seven times. They look very un Jets-like. What I mean by that is that Saleh’s Jets look disciplined and well-coached. I’m not surprised at all, if anything I don’t understand how it took an extra year for him to get a job.
Their offensive line is looking above average, even without Mekhi Becton, when arguably it’s not very talented. That’s good coaching. I wish my Miami Dolphins had that. 4 out of 5 linemen are within the top half of the league at their position in terms of PFF grade, C Connor McGovern is even in the top 10 with a 70.8 grade. Joe Douglas’ draft class is looking very good too. Zach Wilson had his best game yet whilst both Michael Carter’s are making plays and Alijah Vera-Tucker is coping very well at guard.
The current Pepsi Rookie of the Week, Zach Wilson, is looking to become the first-ever rookie quarterback to win in London. Blake Bortles, Gardner Minshew, Derek Carr, and Deshone Kizer couldn’t do it, can the second overall pick be the first? Quite possibly, yes. He’s going up against the #32 ranked pass defense in Atlanta and showed real growth leading his team to victory last Sunday.
His day started badly as the Jets couldn’t get anything going in the first quarter, and was made worse early in the second by throwing straight at Titans DB Kristian Fulton. Wilson bounced back on the very next drive, bringing his team back in the game by finding Corey Davis for a big gain, putting Carter in a great position to bulldoze into the end zone. The former BYU Cougar got better as the game went on, showing a real ability to extend plays, as seen on the deep shot to Keelan Cole and the TD pass down the sideline to Jamison Crowder.
Atlanta are the most talented team in my opinion, but I’m just not sure. At this moment in time, I’m leaning towards picking the New York Jets. When you add the fact the Falcons offense is missing two key weapons as well, it may be difficult for ATL to move the ball effectively. Arthur Smith’s tenure hasn’t gotten off to the greatest of starts. They look poorly coached, unlike the Jets, the Washington game showed that. That being said, Tennessee were missing a bunch of players last week so maybe I’m exaggerating the Jets performance a bit.
London games often throw up surprises, so I’m expecting to be wrong don’t you worry. One thing I’m learning to be is braver with my predictions, I was hoping Arizona would prove me wrong last Sunday and they did. So screw it, I’m picking a rookie quarterback to win a London game for the first time ever. It’ll be close, within one score.
Falcons 25, Jets 27