That's how long it had been since I was last able to host a pre-game show outside a London stadium ahead of a regular season game in the UK. It was great to be back at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday morning and then I have to say that I really enjoyed the game once the New York Jets woke up.
The Atlanta Falcons were worthy winners as they came out on top 27-20. And it was impressive how Matt Ryan continued his fine form of late by throwing for 342 yards and two touchdowns, while using different targets to make up for the absences of wide receivers Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage.
Ryan was efficient all day long and connected with tight ends Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst and Lee Smith for 16 completions for 189 yards and two touchdowns. By contrast, Jets rookie Zach Wilson looked erratic and slow to process what was happening on the defensive side of the ball.
Wilson throws a beautiful football, but he tries to make every pass an absolute worldie. And it doesn't have to be that way. When the rocket-armed kid learns to take what the defense gives him, the Jets will really have something.
As I was driving home from Tottenham in the early hours of this morning – fully caffeinated to fend off the effects of 11 ½ hours of live TV – I was thinking that I was really glad to have seen Pitts in the flesh because I think he will become one of the stars of the league.
If you are reading this column and were there on Sunday, we can say we saw his breakout performance to announce his arrival on the NFL scene. He can body up bigger defenders as he did on his two-yard touchdown catch but he also moves like a receiver.
I have a feeling we will eventually say the same about Wilson, but he was not the star of this show. This was Ryan's day. And it was a day that belonged to all NFL fans in the UK as we welcomed the game that we all love back to our shores.
What a day. I cannot wait until we get to do it all again. Wait, that's this weekend? Cool!
The Buffalo Bills… I had the Bills number one in my Power Rankings last week and they will be staying there. Sunday's 38-20 win over Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium had a changing-of-the-guard feel to it. Buffalo have now won four straight, scoring 35, 43, 40 and 38 points per outing. Josh Allen was near-perfect in throwing for 315 yards and three touchdowns on just 15 completions, while the defense came up with two sacks and two picks of Patrick Mahomes. The Bills are the NFL's team to beat.
Davante Adams and Ja'Marr Chase… The efforts of these game-breaking receivers were eventually overshadowed by two kickers and their late-game shenanigans. But Green Bay's 25-22 overtime defeat of Cincinnati should definitely featured this pair among the headlines. Adams caught 11 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown, while the Bengals' rookie countered with six receptions for 159 yards and a score.
Zeke… Ezekiel Elliott was in statistical decline heading into 2021. The numbers can back up that particular argument but that is no longer the case! He looks slimmer, fitter and more explosive and was a key part of Sunday's 44-20 demolition of a Giants team hurt by injury after key injury. Zeke carried 21 times for 110 yards and one high-stepping touchdown. Over the past two weeks – even with Tony Pollard getting his share of work – Elliott has carried 41 times for 253 yards (6.2 average) and two scores. The Cowboys, along with the Bucs, look to be the class of the NFC.
Kickers… And I'm not just talking about the comical pairing of Green Bay's Mason Crosby and Cincinnati's Evan McPherson, who missed five field goals from the final 2:12 of regulation and through overtime of one of the most dramatic and unbelievable endings to a game I have ever seen. But kickers struggled across the league. With one game still to be played, there have been 24 missed kicks – the most in an NFL weekend in 30 years.
The Raiders… For the second week in a row, the Las Vegas Raiders struggled and their 3-0 start has crumbled into a 3-2 record with Sunday's home loss to Chicago arguably the most disappointing. The offensive line is not getting enough push up front and there is too much pressure on Derek Carr, who did not throw a touchdown strike in the 20-9 defeat. While the Raiders are disappointing, their form is not shocking. I think they have found their level at 3-2.
The Jaguars… You can't get much colder than becoming only the second team in the Super Bowl era to lose 20 games in a row. There is hope in the form of Trevor Lawrence and the young quarterback played the best game of his career to date in Sunday's 37-19 loss to Tennessee. The problems lie on the defensive side of the ball where Jacksonville have yet to hold an opponent below 23 points this season.
The Fast Five…
- Tom Brady and the Bucs are so explosive and tough to stop. Miami hung around for a while on Sunday but as soon as Tampa put the pedal to the metal, it was over. Tom Brady threw for 411 yards and five touchdowns, while Antonio Brown and Mike Evans both topped 100 yards receiving and scored two touchdowns apiece. After being on the receiving end of a flurry of punches, the Dolphins woke up to find it was 45-17.
- The Detroit Lions have reduced their tough-guy coach Dan Campbell to tears. And who can blame him? Just weeks after losing on a 61-yard Justin Tucker field goal as time ran out, the Lions lost on Greg Joseph's 54-yard field goal as the clock hit zero. The Lions play hard but they are the opposite of the notion that good teams find ways to win.
- It was not much fun for lovers of defense, but what a game that was between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Cleveland Browns, with Justin Herbert throwing for 398 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Bolts to victory and a 4-1 record. He is making the Chargers Box Office viewing every weekend.
- The end of the early games was crazy on Sunday. I've already spoken about late drama in the Bengals-Packers and Lions-Vikings games, but it was across the board. New England kicked a late field goal to beat Houston, Philadelphia scored a late Jalen Hurts touchdown to defeat Carolina a and Pittsburgh had to hold off a late comeback from Denver. It was frantic and fantastic!
- I am eagerly watching the news wires on Tuesday to see what is the latest regarding the NFL playing a regular season game in Germany. I don't know the timetable of a potential game nor which cities are in the running to host, but I know this… I cannot wait for a game to be played in that country in front of very deserving fans and I will be lobbying hard for Sky Sports NFL to be on site!
Fact of the Week
The New York Jets have scored just 13 points in the first half of games this season (fewest in the NFL; Colts and Lions tied for next-fewest with 33).
Finish That Sentence
Each week in this spot I ask readers - via Twitter - to randomly send me the start of a sentence and, as we so often did on our NFL UK Live stage show tours, I will finish the sentence with the first thought that comes into my head. Here we go…
From Michael Barwick (@MichaelTBarwick) In order for the Jets to become a winning team they need… a bit more time and a few more drafts. I believe they have the right head coach in place in Robert Saleh and Zach Wilson will figure things out at quarterback. Some defensive cornerstones are in place in Quinnen Williams, John Franklin-Myers and Carl Lawson (once healthy) and the receivers are decent on offense. They just need to keep adding pieces but I feel good about their future.
From Mark Jones (@Markrpj) Zeke Elliott and Tony Pollard will run the Cowboys into the playoffs because… defenses won't be solely focused on shutting down the Dallas rushing attack. Teams are scared to death of a passing game led by Dak Prescott and featuring Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. The Cowboys are very complete on the offensive side of the ball and have impactful, turnover-producing defenders on the other side of the ball. Owner Jerry Jones was in tears this summer thinking about what it would be like to win another Super Bowl. A summer dream shared at a press conference in California could end up becoming a winter realisation in the same state in February.
From Matt Turvey (@MrTurvey) The biggest announcement regarding the 2022 London Games will likely be… that there will be more of them! I honestly don't know if that is the case or if such a decision is imminent. But I can definitely see a scenario where there are the contractual two games at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Then there could also be a separate deal struck by the likes of the Jacksonville Jaguars or the New York Jets to play additional games at Wembley Stadium. It's good to know that we have two games per year in London for the foreseeable future, but I don't think we will always be stuck on that number.
I think no matter what comes out of his mouth between now and the rest of this season, Russell Wilson wants out of Seattle and that story will rear its ugly head again once the Seahawks are out of the playoffs, not that they look good enough to get there right now. A frustrating season is only going to become more frustrating and annoying for Wilson if he is sidelined for a lengthy period of time due to his finger injury. Watch this space. There may be trouble ahead when it comes to Wilson and the Seahawks.