BYE-BYE, BYE-BYE, BABY, BYE-BYE
That old joke about “bye” weeks got quite a workout in local football circles over the weekend. The New York Giants drew the bye, the bye was favored by seven. The same could have been said about a certain local college football team, but the focus here is the NFL and “bye” weeks that are coming, for teams that will not only be favored over the “bye”, but are likely to be favored when they get back to action in two weeks.
Make no mistake about it, a “bye” week can impact an entire season. The Patriots head into their “bye” coming off their best offensive effort of the season, a 55-31 win over the Steelers in which they scored the most points by one team in the NFL this season and the most points ever scored against a Steelers defense. The catalyst for the Pats was tight end Rob Gronkowski, who missed the first seven weeks of the season with myriad injuries. With no Gronkowski, with no Aaron Hernandez and without his favorite reciever and go-to guy Wes Welker, Tom Brady was often tight rope walking without a net as he tried to work into a sync with a corps of strange recievers.
With the return of Gronkowski came the return of Brady’s comfort level and the two connected nine times yesterday, including for one of Brady’s four TD passes. The Pats gave a league that may have thought they’d finally reached the far side of Brady-Belichick Hill something to think about while they step out of the spotlight for a week to tune up their rejuvinated offense. The “bye” comes at a good time.
The “bye” also comes at a good time for the New York Jets. They’re 5-4, but they need some time for assessment. There were a few gifts involved in getting to the “bye” above .500, a boneheaded defensive play saving them from themselves in the opener, an unprecedented officiating call helping them past the Patriots, just to name a couple. It wasn’t all their own doing, until yesterday.
The win over the Saints gave the Jets some legitimacy, a quality win over a quality team in which the Jets established a running game behind former Saints running back Chris Ivory, got further evidence that Nick Folk is a go-to kicker at any stage of any game, even when it’s on the line, and put up a defensive effort that kept the great Drew Brees off balance all afternoon while forcing a pair of interceptions. The Jets can be pretty good, but they have to reach an understanding that they weren’t really a better than .500 team in the first half. As long as they understand that they will be in the second half.
It may be a bad time for a “bye” for the best team in the NFL, right now. The Kansas City Chiefs are 9-0, matching their best start ever, but number nine was as easy as an afternoon in the dentist’s chair. The Bills gave the Chiefs fits and forced them to battle from behind and hold on tight. Nerves over the winning streak may have been setting in, so it may be a good time for a “bye”, but ask any NFL team if they want to take a week off while they’re on the growing end of a winning streak and you’ll get an obvious answer.
We may joke about it, but don’t ever discount the impact of the “bye”.
With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.