Last week as the New York Jets prepared to face the Oakland Raiders, there was little doubt as to what the Raiders’ silver lining was. Running backs Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush had averaged 141 rushing yards per game, good for fourth in the NFL. Oakland Quarterback JaMarcus Russell had struggled entering the game, but with talented targets in tight end Zach Miller and wide receiver Javon Walker, there was reason to believe that their offense could break open at any minute. But as the Jets prepare to battle the 1-5 Kansas City Chiefs, there is hardly a bright spot for Head Coach Herman Edwards’ struggling bunch. To put it bluntly, the Chiefs have been downright awful in 2008.
After coming off last week’s disappointing loss to the Raiders, this matchup could not come at a better time for the Jets. The Chiefs’ offense is depleted, as second-year quarterback Tyler Thigpen will get the start after both Brodie Croyle (torn knee ligaments) and Damon Huard (torn thumb ligaments) were placed on Injured Reserve earlier this week. Talented but troubled running back Larry Johnson will be benched for the second consecutive week tomorrow after reports surfaced that Johnson was involved in a late-night altercation at a nightclub on Kansas City’s bye weekend (Oct. 14). Jamaal Charles and Kolby Smith, who have combined for 154 yards on 38 carries, are expected to receive the bulk of the carries. Overall in 2008, the Chiefs rank 29th in total offense with 257 yards per game and 32nd in scoring with 12.5 points per game. The troubles do not stop there. The Chiefs’ defense ranks 31st in the NFL, with 402 yards allowed per contest. In reviewing such statistics, the Jets have to be licking their chops heading into tomorrow. Last Sunday’s loss was a complete disappointment, but if the Jets were to lose tomorrow, it would be an utter disgrace.
Jets’ RB Thomas Jones v. Chiefs’ LBs Derrick Johnson and Donnie Edwards- Jones’ breakout performance as a Jet came last Sunday, as he gained 159 yards on 24 carries. It is difficult to expect a player to repeat such gaudy numbers, but against the Chiefs, it is more than a possibility. The Chiefs’ run defense ranks last in the NFL (207 yards/game) and have held an opponent until 100 yards rushing just once in six games this season. If Jones can gain some ground early, it will be a very long afternoon for Kansas City.
Jets’ QB Brett Favre v. Chiefs’ DBs Brandon Flowers and Patrick Surtain- Whereas the Chiefs’ run defense ranks last in the NFL, their pass defense finds itself in the middle of the NFL pack. The Kansas City pass defense ranks 13th in the NFL, allowing 195 yards per game. But no so fast Jets’ fans, the truth extends beyond the statistic. Opposing teams have been run-heavy against the Chiefs this season, leaving Kansas City’s enlightening pass-defense statistics more the result of facing limited chances. Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini could not have put it any better this week when speaking about Kansas City’s struggles in stopping the run against their success versus the pass:”Sometimes, like with any statistic, that can get steam-rolled, where if you show that’s an area which can be attacked, you not only get it, but you get it in heavy, heavy doses from a lot of teams. Sometimes what ends up happening is you’re top-10 in pass defense and 32nd in run defense.” As pretty as the Chiefs’ pass defense may look, there are holes and Favre should be able to exploit them. Favre had arguably his toughest game as a Jet last week (21-for-38, 197 yards, two interceptions) but there are more than enough holes to attack tomorrow.
Jets’ Offensive Line v. Chiefs’ DEs Alfonso Boone and Tamba Hali-If you are searching for a silver lining on the Chiefs, you’re not going to find it on the defensive line, where Kansas City has generated just one sack. Favre has been hit all too often in recent weeks, leaving the 39-year old quarterback looking his age. This should be one of those matchups where Favre can drop back and survey the field without two defenders in his face. It will be the offensive line’s job to make that happen.
Chiefs’ QB Tyler Thigpen v. Jets’ DE Shaun Ellis-On 90 passing attempts this season, Thigpen has compiled a 42 percent completion percentage, two touchdown passes and a 44.3 quarterback rating…yikes! If Ellis can pressure Thigpen repeatedly, the Jets can force the second-year quarterback into some costly mistakes. The Jets’ defense should make it a long afternoon for Thigpen, but on second thought, they have already lost to Matt Cassel and Russell in the season’s first six games.
Chiefs’ TE Tony Gonzalez v. Jets’ LB Calvin Pace-Even in a painful season for the Chiefs, Gonzalez has not disappointed as he has recorded 27 catches for 290 yards and two touchdowns. Thigpen does not possess the rocket-arm that Russell does, so Gonzalez will surely be targeted repeatedly on short passing routes. It might take a career day from the nine-time Pro-Bowl tight end for the Chiefs to leave the Meadowlands victorious tomorrow, but Gonzalez always is one to watch on offense. If the Jets are able to shut down Gonzalez, it’s difficult to see how the Jets won’t win this one in easy fashion.
The Jets are not exactly clicking on all cylinders heading into tomorrow’s matchup, but the Chiefs are depleted. With the Chiefs down to their third-string quarterback, their backup running back and a run defense that has holes larger than the Grand Canyon, it’s difficult to find where Kansas City’s production will come from……Jets 31, Chiefs 10