NFL Week 5: What to watch for as Jets head to London, face Falcons

Robert Saleh Zach Wilson Jets
Robert Saleh, Zach Wilson, and the Jets head to London to play the Falcons on Sunday.
Kevin R. Wexler-USA TODAY Sports

Just as we were all ready to write the New York Jets off, they surprise the football world by upsetting the Tennessee Titans in overtime last week, giving first-year head coach Robert Saleh his first career head-coaching victory, but also presenting Gang Green with a golden opportunity to build some first-half momentum this season.

Week 5 provides a matchup with a struggling, inconsistent, and defensively challenged Atlanta Falcons team that should provide a barometer of just how much more work this Jets team has to do in order to identify just where they stand amongst the lower half of the NFL’s standings.

But Sunday provides a completely new challenge as the matchup will take place 3,457 miles East of MetLife Stadium; across the pond in London at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (9:30 a.m.ET, NBC).

Here’s what to watch out for:

London Calling

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium NFL Jets Falcons
The NFL returns to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A game in Europe means different preparations for an NFL Sunday, which provides a considerable challenge for franchises rooted in routine heading toward gameday.

The first half of this week was business as usual as the Jets practice at their facility in Florham Park. But after Thursday’s session, they depart for London where they’re expected to land Friday morning.

They’ll hold a practice on Friday afternoon as they assimilate to the five-hour time difference.

Saleh has had experience in these London games — participating in three of them when he served as the linebackers coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“It’s a tricky week,” Saleh said on Monday. “Fortunately I’ve been a part of this game three times. Once we tried leaving right after a Sunday game, then leaving on Monday, then on Thursday. We have a really good travel plan to keep it as normal as possible for our guys, getting in, acclimated to the time change, and playing on Sunday.”

Saleh and the Jets had a similar plan to travel out to Denver to face the Broncos in Week 3, leaving on Friday for a trip that is roughly half the time as this trek to England.

Falcons Defense Prime For Picking

Zach Wilson Jets
Zach Wilson Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson had his finest game as a pro to date in Week 4 against the Titans, throwing for 297 yards and a pair of touchdowns — headlined by a perfect deep ball on a roll-out in which he directed Corey Davis to abandon his route and go toward the end zone, connecting on a 54-yard score.

It was the first glimpse of the 22-year-old becoming the leader and franchise quarterback in high-leverage situations, keeping his cool and limiting mistakes as the game wound from crunch time to overtime.

What impressed Saleh the most, though, was him sticking more to that “boring” football that he’s been preaching over the last few weeks.

“I think it was 14 of his 18 completions were [thrown] for seven yards or less. He didn’t get hit, there were balls getting in and out of his hands,” Saleh said. “Everyone saw the creativity and the off-schedule stuff that is getting all the attention, but that represented four of his completions.

He’s in a really good headspace, his mindset’s in the right spot in terms of he knows he can be even better and those are things he’ll continue to grow on.”

Now Wilson faces a Falcons defense that has yielded the most points in the NFL this season while ranking 22nd in the league in passing yards allowed and tied for first with 11 passing touchdowns yielded.

That teases the promise of an even bigger day for the rookie as he continues finding his footing under center for Gang Green.

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