Chiefs coach Herm Edwards returns to face his former team for the first time this Sunday since leaving two years ago.
Sunday’s match-up between the Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs could appropriately be looked upon as, to take a page out of the immortal Charles Dickens novel, a tale of two flops.
Both the Jets and Chiefs rounded out the AFC picture last postseason. This time around, they have endured a fall from grace of sorts, sporting sub-.500 records (the Jets at 3-12, the Chiefs at 4-11). While Gang Green’s elimination was declared imminent even before their bye week, Kansas City’s woes happened after theirs, racking up eight straight losses in the process. That kind of disappointment isn’t the only similarity between both teams.
The offenses of the Jets and the Chiefs have been unsightly much of the season, with the Jets ranked 27th in total offense with 291.9 YPG and the Chiefs not far behind in 29th, amassing only 280.7 YPG. While KC’s offense has been unbearable to watch, there is a silver lining to this ordeal. However, it does not come in the form of star RB Larry Johnson, whose season has been hampered by both a foot injury and a lack of on-field production. Instead, the “Players to Watch” tag on their offense belongs to both veteran TE Tony Gonzalez and rookie WR Dwayne Bowe.
“(Tony) Gonzalez is having another impressive season. It seems like every year he gets better and better, and it doesn't matter how many guys are on him,” said Jets head coach Eric Mangini. “(Dwayne) Bowe has done an outstanding job for them as a rookie. He has the most receptions by a Kansas City rookie and most yards by a Kansas City rookie. Those guys cannot just hurt you with the short stuff, but both of them can hurt you vertically as well.”
Both New York’s and Kansas City’s defenses have been impressive in contrast to their offensive compatriots. Although the Jets are 22nd in overall defense, they have shown signs of stellar play in the second half of the season. Part of that has been the emergence of their top two draft picks, LB David Harris and CB Darrelle Revis.
Gang Green’s counterparts in Kansas City are ranked 13th in overall defense and has proven to be very effective. They have allowed 32 percent of third downs attempted (which ranks them second in the league), has so far allowed a fourth down to be made only once (placing them first), and are tops in red zone defense.
“I'm familiar with Ty (Law), and I’ve also seen Patrick (Surtain) over the years,” said coach Mangini. “Both guys are extremely opportunistic, have very good instincts and are very good veteran corners who understand not just how to play their position, but their ability to read the quarterback is excellent.
“Their pass rush causes a lot of problems. It's a similar situation to last week where (Jared) Allen can ruin the game at any point and then you've got (Tamba) Hali on the other side with six-and-a-half sacks. They are both outstanding at generating the pass rush individually so that's going to be a big challenge for us offensively.”
This is a battle between the two most frustrated teams this season, given their successes last year. While a win would give the Jets a glimmer of hope about their chances in 2008, one painful fact remains: in order to be sure of those chances, Gang Green will have to restructure in order to go a long way.
When the Jets Have the Ball
The QB situation is very murky at this point. After taking over for Kellen Clemens in Week 15, Chad Pennington, who is likely to play his last game in a Jets uniform, fared no better last week in Tennessee, throwing two interceptions in the process. As of right now, Mangini has not named a starter for Sunday's game. RB Thomas Jones reached the 1,000 yard mark in that game, but has been a disappointment this year. All around, the offense was ineffective against the Titans, as it has been for most of the season. The sight of Pro Bowl defensive backs Ty Law and Patrick Surtain, and the DL tandem of Jared Allen, who has overcome his alcoholism to post a career-best 13.5 sacks, and Tamba Hali doesn’t help much either.
When the Chiefs Have the Ball
While the Jets offense has not been a pretty sight this season, the offensive side of the ball for Kansas City hasn’t fared much better either. Ranked 29th in the league, the Chiefs offense have also gone through a quarterback crisis, alternating between the vet Damon Huard and the youngster Brodie Croyle. Like Clemens, Croyle has been hailed by Chiefs fans as the future of the franchise, yet has left much to be desired. Perhaps more disappointing for KC is star RB Larry Johnson. After signing a five-year contract extension during training camp, LJ has been a disappointment for the Chiefs, largely thanks to a foot injury that has sidelined him since Week 9. In turn, the injury has contributed to his inability to perform. Look for the Jets defense to raise hell for much of the game.
RB/KR Leon Washington was recently named the team’s MVP, and for good reason. The second-year player from Florida State leads the league with three kickoff return touchdowns, providing a spark in the Jets. Mike Nugent has been shaky in the previous two games, making only one field goal in three attempts and shanking an extra point attempt against the Titans. The Chiefs, meanwhile, have gone through three different kickers. In the punting game, Jeremy Kapinos made his debut last week, and will likely get the nod in place of Ben Graham, who has struggled this season. While Kapinos has shown upside, KC gets the edge in punting thanks to the consistency of Dustin Colquitt, the league’s second-best punter this season. Still, the Jets have the overall edge in special teams.
With both teams doing nothing to shed their offensive ineffectiveness, expect this game to be a defensive battle throughout. The difference maker? A huge special teams play, courtesy of Leon Washington. That could at least end the Jets’ 2007 season on a high note.
Prediction: Jets 13, Chiefs 6
Connections of Significance
Sunday’s game marks the return of Chiefs head coach Herman Edwards to the Meadowlands since his days as the head coach of the Jets. From 2001-2005 under Edwards’ watch, the Jets registered a 39-41 regular season record and played in a team best five postseason games. He was also known for his infamous “You play to win the game” outburst in the 2002 season.
Chiefs players making their return to the Meadowlands include OL Adrian Jones, who was released by the Jets just last week and picked up by KC soon after, and CB Ty Law. Both Law and coach Mangini spent time in New England as part of the Patriot dynasty that won three Super Bowls in a four year span. Law played for the Jets in the 2005 season before leaving for Kansas City.
Don’t tell the citizens of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, that this game has no meaning. Both Law and Jets rookie CB Darrelle Revis are natives of Aliquippa, and will look to give its denizens a game to remember. A big game from either both or one of the two will give the small Pittsburgh-area city something to be proud of.
Series in a Nutshell
Sunday will mark the 31st time that the Jets and Chiefs will do battle. The Jets are 13-16-1 against the Chiefs. The last meeting between the two was on September 11, 2005, which the Chiefs won 27-7, thanks to Larry Johnson’s two rushing touchdowns.
Sunday’s Jets-Chiefs game was originally scheduled to be a nationally-televised Sunday night affair. However, thanks in part to the NFL’s “flexible scheduling” policy, the game has been moved to a 4:15 pm start time.
Local TV is on CBS 2 and local radio on 1050 ESPN radio and WCRN 104.3 on Long Island. Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com after the game for a complete recap!