The television landscape of 2011 was one ruled by big swings. Both HBO and AMC changed the game with the releases of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, two big budget genre series adapted from beloved existing properties that would ultimately define the decade. But there was another show that launched that year, one that wasn’t based on previously existing source material yet would turn out to be just as industry-shaking in the way it introduced elements of boundary-pushing violence and outré kink into basic cable, along the way revitalizing the anthology series genre: American Horror Story.
When Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s miniseries first premiered on October 5, 2011, it didn’t have any close analogs. Right from the get-go, though, the FX drama made sure its viewers understood that they were witnessing the boundaries of cable television being pushed to new extremes. By the time the first season wrapped, the flurry of both awards nominations and critical thinkpieces made it clear that this show was going to resonate for years and years to come.
A decade later, AHS is still managing to shock and entrance fans. But how does this gory experiment hold up after 10 years? Is it still drawing in the remarkable numbers and finger-wagging critiques of years past? The answer is bit murkier then a straight “yes” or a “no.” While American Horror Story has lost some of its audience and critical acclaim, when you look at the series at large, it remains a television force of nature — and here’s why.
HOW AHS REINVENTED A GENRE
One of the key factors that has set American Horror Story apart from the get-go can’t be measured by traditional metrics like audience size, profitability, or even social media impact. That’s because this limited series paved the way for a new riff on an old format of television, while also giving a long-ignored genre a shot: horror.
When American Horror Story first premiered, it was meant in part to balance out FX’s comedy-heavy schedule of the early 2010s. Chairman of FX John Landgraf was quickly confident in its success. “When Ryan Murphy pitched me the idea of an anthological horror series, and I knew he was going to be doing it with his brilliance for casting and design, I thought, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s a hit,” Landgraf revealed at TCA in 2018. “But there was a lot of debate, really, about whether the horror genre could actually sustain on television.”
The success of the first season, retroactively titled Murder House, erased those genre-specific doubts. But it’s Horror Story‘s subsequent seasons that have cemented its place in TV history. American Horror Story was the first American anthology miniseries for this era of high-brow television, a brand of programming Landgraf himself once dubbed “peak TV.” During a TCA tour in 2014, Landgraf credited Ryan Murphy with inventing the “anthological miniseries,” a format that follows a different story every season but takes place in the same universe and may use the same actors.
This TV innovation is something that Landgraf has likened to one of the best shows of all-time. During TCA’s winter tour in 2015, when asked what he looks for in new programming, Landgraf singled out the influence of David Chase’s storied HBO series, The Sopranos. Before The Sopranos, 22-episode procedurals were the norm for dramatic television. Chase’s HBO series challenged and upended the status quo, creating concise, 13-episode seasons that focused more on story continuity and character development than stand-alone dramas of the week. The Sopranos was then followed by another hit show that fit into this format, FX’s The Shield.
“So I asked a different question, which is ‘What if the innovation is that on some level the length of the show should really fit the optimal length of the story?’” Landgraf said, speaking to the networks’ focus on miniseries. “What if ultimately instead of having an industry when writers had to write to a certain format because it was being dictated by the terms of business and the competitive environment and desire to have a show that looks a certain way?”
In 2011 and 2012, American Horror Story was the only show attempting this format on American TV. And it worked. For its first two seasons, American Horror Story secured a combined 30 Primetime and Creative Arts Emmy nominations, winning four of those awards.
But the real success of those first few seasons can be seen in the shows that followed in their footsteps. Since American Horror Story‘s premiere in 2011, anthology miniseries have become commonplace. It’s not unusual for the most exciting awards race of the season to be defined by the Limited Series Emmy category. Landgraf addressed this trend in 2016, a year that saw FX competing against itself in the limited series categories thanks to two series: Fargo and The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.
“It’s the old saw, imitation is the sincerest form of television, right?” Landgraf said during a TCA panel. “Whatever anybody is doing that’s successful, everybody flocks to whatever is successful, and so you always have to find that new terrain. If I think about limited series in general, which was a new terrain that’s been incredibly good to us and our creators, within which we’ve been very successful, I think the level of competition across the board in limited series is just going to go up and up and up and up year after year after year. It gets to be very difficult for FX to be dominant in that category or any category in the way it is this year.”
Over its 27-year existence, FX has prided itself on pushing the boundaries of television from a content, formatting, and storytelling perspective. American Horror Story, by being the first successful anthology miniseries of the Peak TV era, as well as one of the first successful horror series of the modern age, has done just that. At the moment, the series is the longest-running of its kind. It’s lasted longer than comparable anthological miniseries like Fargo, True Detective, and The Haunting many seasons over. So on this specific innovative front, yes, American Horror Story continues to be a network success story.
THE EBBS AND FLOWS OF AN AUDIENCE
Now that we’ve explored American Horror Story‘s lasting legacy, we need to address its current performance. Over the years, FX has emphasized it doesn’t solely look at audience numbers when determining a show’s ongoing viability. Critic ratings and awards are also seen as an important metric for a show’s success. For the purposes of this examination, we’ll be looking at both metrics, as well as search traffic to determine its audience trends.
Ratings: The FX on Hulu Question
There’s no denying facts. In recent years, American Horror Story has seen a steep decline in live TV viewership.
Over the course of its first four seasons, AHS saw a steady increase in viewership every year. According to Nielsen, when the series first premiered, there was an average of 1.789 million people who watched each episode, based on the live plus seven day numbers. Asylum increased to 4.237 million. But it was Coven and Freak Show that saw the biggest viewership spike. Season 3 averaged 7.195 million viewers an episode, and Season 4 was the most viewed season to date with 7.638 million.
Conversely, subsequent seasons have seen a steady decline. Hotel and Roanoke dropped a million viewers but stayed in the same range with 6.156 million and 6.312 million viewers, respectively. Cult and Apocalypse then saw another substantial drop. Cult averaged 4.97 million viewers, and Apocalypse saw 4.893 million viewers. That was followed by a further drop of a million the following year. 1984 averaged 3.398 million viewers an episode. Fitting with this decline, this year’s Double Feature has seen the lowest telecast ratings of this series’ history. The total live plus seven day averages for this past season were 1.386 million. That’s roughly half a million fewer people than Season 1 saw, a season that premiered before the show was a hit.
Those numbers alone paint a pretty grim picture of American Horror Story‘s standing with audiences. But these numbers don’t capture the full scope of the viewership. Landgraf has always emphasized that Nielsen ratings are just one piece of the puzzle, and that viewership generated from streaming services has always been similarly important.
During TCA’s 2012 winter tour, a tour that took place around the same time that Season 2’s Asylum was airing, Landgraf said, “I’m going to stop and just make a quick note about ratings and the way they’re currently reported. If anyone had reported the Live + Same Day viewership for American Horror Story in total viewers, they would have been reporting an average of 2.8 million viewers per week. If they’d reported the Live + 7 inclusive of DVR viewership, that number would have gone to 4.4 million viewers per week. And then if you add the weekly viewings due to repeat, Hulu, fxnetworks.com, and VOD, that number would have grown to 8.2 million weekly viewers.”
What this quote tells us is that American Horror Story‘s audience has watched this show on streaming and through VOD since its first episode. That detail is what makes the audience for Double Feature so very hard to gauge. Season 10 was the first installment of the series that was made available on the now defunct FX on Hulu, meaning that new episodes of AHS premiered on Hulu the day after they aired on the network. Because of this, Season 10 was the easiest season to stream in the series’ history. But we still don’t know what its actual audience count may be.
As we learned from Y:The Last Man‘s cancellation, Hulu has not been sharing complete viewership numbers with FX when it comes to FX on Hulu originals. It’s very likely that has held true when it comes to FX originals, which was the classification AHS fell under. Basically, there are a number of people who watched Double Feature, but we have no way of knowing what that number may be, and it’s possible that FX may not know that number, either.
Even if we were to give AHS the benefit of the doubt, a drop in viewership from roughly 7 million (during this series’ height) to just north of 1 million now is substantial. It’s also hard to believe that roughly 80% of the show’s viewers have all migrated to watching the show on streaming services. Based on the trend we’ve seen since Hotel, the fact that most long-running shows typically see a decline in viewership, and the reality that all of cable has seen a decrease in viewership, we can assume the audience for AHS has dropped since its heyday. But, as always seems to be the case with streaming, Double Feature‘s actual viewership remains a mystery.
Critical Success: Life After Freak Show
A similarly difficult metric to measure is American Horror Story‘s critical success. Once again, this is a story of a show that’s been losing popularity, but with some fairly big asterisks. The first season of the show was an awards force. The season that would come to be known as Murder House was nominated for 15 Emmys and two Golden Globes. It won two of those Emmys, and one Globe. That’s the number of nominations American Horror Story averaged until Season 4’s Freak Show. That’s when the anthology series saw its most accolades to date, with 16 Emmy nominations and two Globes nominations. It won five of those awards, all in the Primetime Creative Arts Emmys category.
Lady Gaga would go on to win a Golden Globe for her role as The Countess in Hotel. But from Freak Show on, she was the exception that proved the rule. After Freak Show, the series has seen a decline in awards attention. Hotel received seven Emmy and two Globe nominations. That number dropped to four Emmy nominations for Roanoke, which is currently tied with 1984 as the series’ least nominated season.
On the awards front, American Horror Story has lost much of its momentum. This can absolutely be interpreted as a decline in popularity, but there are also increases in limited series competition and voter trends to consider. When American Horror Story first premiered, there were far fewer limited series and next to no anthology miniseries. A mere five years later, that wasn’t the case at all. In 2016, American Horror Story wasn’t nominated for Outstanding Limited Series but two other FX shows were: the aforementioned Fargo and The People v. O.J. Simpson. That was how prevalent limited series became for both FX and television at large.
Also, as even the most casual awards viewer will tell you, accolades don’t always reflect the best or most popular shows on television. Routinely, critically praised or widely popular shows are excluded from major awards. That was recently highlighted when the HBO series I May Destroy You was snubbed by the Golden Globes this past year, only to later snag the Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in the Limited Series category. On a similar note, it’s not uncommon for long-running shows to see a decline in nominations as newer projects enter the zeitgeist.
So what does this all mean? Essentially, yes: these numbers confirm that American Horror Story has seen notably less critical success in recent years, which is a metric that seems important to FX. But as was the case with viewership numbers, this is not a perfect metric. While it supports the theory that AHS has seen a decline in popularity, it doesn’t definitively prove anything.
Social Impressions: The Numbers That Can’t Lie
If ratings are incomplete and awards reception can’t be trusted, then what about social impressions? Enter Google Trends, which backs up the claim that American Horror Story‘s popularity has been falling. The below chart tracks the series’ popularity from October 2011, the month Murder House premiered, to November of 2021:
Just like with viewership and awards accolades, American Horror Story saw a consistent increase in search traffic from Season 1’s Murder House until Season 4’s Freak Show. Around the time of Hotel, those yearly October bumps started to drop. The lowest search point happened in 2020, when COVID-19 caused American Horror Story to delay its season for a year. But let’s ignore that one. When it comes to years that premiered new seasons, Double Feature clearly has the biggest dip on Google Trends. If Freak Show was at a 100 at the peak of its popularity, Double Feature only reached a 27.
This is the one metric that doesn’t come with a several caveats, and it proves what we’ve seen before. American Horror Story does seem to be, in fact, declining in popularity. Based on viewership from Nielsen and these results, it seems that Double Feature was almost certainly the least watched — or least discussed — season in AHS history so far. But how much does that matter to FX?
A TENTPOLE SERIES FOR MORE TENTPOLES
This is where American Horror Story‘s legacy comes back into play. FX has always been a network that has looked past ratings when evaluating its shows. This is the network that gave critical darlings You’re the Worst and The Americans multiple seasons despite the fact they were rarely successful on the viewership or awards fronts. This is a cable network that has proven it’s willing to take big chances on shows other networks would likely can. Keeping this in mind, there’s one final metric that makes American Horror Story so valuable: in more ways than one, this horror anthology has helped define its network.
Landgraf alluded to as much during a TCA executive session in 2020. “We will continue to replace our outgoing series on the FX linear channels with the very best series we can develop, produce and launch,” Landgraf said. “So, just as we’ve replaced The Shield with Sons of Anarchy, and Nip/Tuck with American Horror Story, and Rescue Me with Justified, and so on, one day we will replace Snowfall and Mayans and Sunny with the best possible series to keep our linear channels robust and valued.”
American Horror Story has become a show that has been listed alongside FX’s greatest hits. And unlike some of its peers, age has only expanded its legacy.
American Spinoff Story
Here’s a fun fact: To date, American Horror Story has produced more spinoffs than any other FX original. The most direct spinoff was FX on Hulu’s American Horror Stories, which premiered in the summer of 2021. At the time, that anthology series was named the most successful launch of any FX on Hulu series and earned a Season 2 renewal. That summer success is a major point in AHS‘ favor as well as a possible reason for Double Feature‘s so-so numbers. Audiences may have simply been too burnt out on Murphy and Falchuk’s brand of horror to dive into Season 10. But this direct spinoff hasn’t been the only one. AHS was also the predecessor for one of FX’s most critically acclaimed series: American Crime Story.
In 2016, Landgraf referred to American Crime Story as a “quasi-spinoff” of Horror Story. And it’s been a successful one. The People v. O.J. Simpson won nine Emmys, the highest of its year after Game of Thrones. It also averaged an impressive 7.7 million viewers an episode. That was followed by The Assassination of Gianni Versace, which wasn’t as widely viewed but was nominated for nine Emmys, winning three. That was followed by the lowest rated of the three, Impeachment. As we’ve covered before, there have been several factors working against Season 3’s low viewership, but the series still has its supporters. We also know that there will be a fourth season of American Crime Story, which will focus on Studio 54.
But that’s not all. Earlier this year, FX announced two more spinoffs from Horror Story: American Sports Story and American Love Story. That means to date, American Horror Story has been responsible for four spinoff series, one of which is heading into its fourth season and another that has been renewed for a second season. Low ratings for Double Feature aside, it’s clear that FX is still betting on this creative team and this original property. That’s excellent branding. Speaking of…
More Than Just a TV Show
Frankly, American Horror Story seems to make FX money. We’re not talking about advertising; we’re talking about merchandise. Currently, there are 108 American Horror Story products in FX’s official store as well as 40 products in the show’s official Hot Topic line. These range from a AHS-branded face mask for $4.95 to a Coven blanket priced at $49.95.
Branded merchandise isn’t unusual for FX shows. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, for example, currently has 143 products in FX’s store. The FX store also offers merchandise for Pose, Archer, Atlanta, Dave, Mayans M.C., Snowfall, Sons of Anarchy, and What We Do in the Shadows. But it’s notable that this avenue for profitability that’s typically reserved for comedies includes the network’s long-running horror anthology series.
American Horror Story has also expanded to events. For two years, the series was featured in Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. In 2016, one of the annual event’s nine houses contained elements from Murder House, Freak Show, and Hotel, and in 2017, Universal Studios spotlighted Asylum, Coven, and Roanoke. The point is, American Horror Story is clearly making money for FX outside of ad sales, streaming contracts, and VOD purchases. It’s unlikely these sales make up a bulk of the show’s profitability. But it does prove that AHS still has a fan base and is still popular, and therefore profitable, to some extent. Ultimately, money talks. And based on its events, swag, and appearances at places like Comic-Con, AHS seems to be talking.
AMERICAN HORROR STORY‘S FUTURE
Looking at the numbers, it’s clear that American Horror Story is locked in a state of decline. But, from what we can tell, that doesn’t mean one of the wildest shows on TV is on the verge of cancellation. Based on FX’s metrics of success, what this series has given its network, and its chairman’s own words, American Horror Story‘s future seems secure.
In 2020, Landgraf spoke about FX’s decision to renew American Horror Story through Season 13, made in the wake of his network’s acquisition by Disney. “I’m really excited that we were able to continue to work with Ryan, and somehow it just feels really poetic to me that American Horror Story is going to have 13 seasons. That just felt right,” Landgraf said. “It could be one of those weird things where we keep going, and it ends up being 20 seasons, I don’t know.”
The chairman made a point that this renewal wasn’t a future cancellation of this long-running series. “That is not a decision to cancel it (after 13 seasons), it’s a decision to say, yes, at minimum, that would be awesome,” Landgraf added.
Earlier this year, the FX head also expressed interest in bringing Murphy back to FX more permanently. “Would I like it to happen? The answer is yes,” Landgraf said when asked if Disney could secure a new contract with Murphy. “From where I sit, he’s been extraordinarily productive for Netflix and obviously we’ve continued to work with him; I’m thrilled with the work he’s done with us. But it’s premature to speculate what will happen that far out. But if you’re asking me would I like Ryan to make his home at Disney, 20th and with Dana [Walden] and therefore FX, yes. I love working with him.”
And though FX’s owner Disney hasn’t directly addressed American Horror Story, the company seems pleased with the network’s focus. In December, it was announced that FX would be dropping the FX on Hulu brand. “FX’s award-winning adult programming is vital to our services both domestically and internationally and we want to shine a brighter light on the brand within our excellent and rapidly growing portfolio of general entertainment programming for adult audiences,” Rebecca Campbell, Disney’s chairman, international and direct-to-consumer, said in a statement. At the time when this branding was dropped and this statement was made, American Horror Story still stands as one of FX’s most popular and recognizable brands.
Those aren’t quotes you would expect from television executives uncertain of a show’s future. They’re a pledge for AHS‘ near future, an acknowledgement that this renewal status is a partnership rather than a decision dictated by a network, enthusiastic praise for the man and the team behind all this success, and a quiet thumbs up from the powers that be. It’s true; aside from that ambitious renewal, FX hasn’t addressed whether or not it’s happy with AHS. But a renewal in and of itself is typically seen as a vote of confidence, and in recent years, most of Landgraf’s quotes about the series have ranged from nostalgically proud to outright glowing.
The bottom line? Yes, American Horror Story’s viewership and popularity has been in decline. When you’re talking about a show that’s 10 years old, that’s sort of what you expect. But as a pillar of boundary-pushing, universe-expanding, and, yes, fearless television, American Horror Story is still giving FX what the network wants. You can keep wearing your rubber fetish suit with pride. AHS isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Where to stream American Horror Story: Double Feature
Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death
Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.
Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.
Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.
Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”
Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.
ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”
Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.
Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.
Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”
Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence
MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.
But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.
“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’
McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.
Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.
Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.
That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .
When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.
Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”
Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.
“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.
“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’
The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.
Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.
But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.
“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’
The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.
No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.
“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’
Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers
When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.
Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.
This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.
The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.
Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.
To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.
There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.
The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.
Baby steps, though.
Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.
Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.
Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.
Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.
And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.
Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.
Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.
Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.
“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.
On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.
That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.
That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.
It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.
If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.
The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.
“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’
A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.
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