When: Sunday, Nov. 2
Time: Noon, CT (1:00 p.m. CT for those of you that forgot to set your clocks back one hour Saturday night)
Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
TV Broadcast: CBS – Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Evan Washburn (Field reporter). NFL Red Zone; DirecTV – 706.
Radio Broadcast: Over 60 radio stations on the Chiefs Radio Network; Mitch Holthus, Len Dawson, Kendall Gammon, commentators; Chiefs Spanish Radio: La Gran D (1340 AM);
SIRIUS: 133 (NYJ), 112 (KC). XM: 231 (KC).
The Kansas City Chiefs received good news Friday when they said Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry will return to the field Sunday for the first time since injuring his ankle in Week Two. They got better news when starting quarterback Alex Smith practiced in full for the third straight day after news broke he played with a sore shoulder in the 34-7 win against the St. Louis Rams last week.
But the best news of all is that the opponent this week is the walking soap opera known as the New York Jets. Embattled head coach Rex Ryan – one of the most underrated head coaches in the NFL, but the act has worn thin in NYC – is openly being referred to as “Dead Man Walking” in the media because he sits on the hottest of hot seats.
Last year’s second-half sensation, quarterback Geno Smith, hasn’t just regressed this season – his career is in full retreat. Now he’s been replaced by Michael Vick. Some people around the league will have you believe that Vick is the key to a Jets resurgence to respectability. Some people also think aliens from outer space assassinated JFK, too.
“Hopefully, he’s the spark we need,” Jets guard Willie Colon said earlier this week. “He’s still Mike Vick.”
Yeah, that might be wishful thinking, Willie.
At 34, Vick isn’t the amazingly athletic speedster that bewildered defenses throughout the league with his rocket arm and rocket-booster legs when he broke into the NFL. Is he still athletic? Yes. Can he occasionally break off a vintage Vick-run for big yardage? Sure thing.
But he remains one of the spottiest starters the NFL has seen in the last decade and has turned back into a turnover machine that simply cannot hold onto the ball or not throw it to the players in the other jerseys.
For all the good press Vick gets (the dog thing notwithstanding) he is one of the more inaccurate passers over the last 15 years (56.0 completion percentage in an era where 62.0 percent is considered average). He is now working in the Jets West Coast offense that is completely based on the quarterback delivering the ball in the right spot. The only coach in Vick’s career that got him close to 60 percent in the West Coast offense? Current Chiefs head coach Andy Reid when both men were in Philadelphia from 2009 to 2012.
Defensively, the Jets are solid, but not as spectacular as past Ryan defenses have been. They can still get to the quarterback and are tied with the Chiefs for fourth in the league with 24 sacks. But their linebackers get abused by opposing tight ends and their secondary is a shambles. Don’t believe the rumors that Ryan was spotted at the local high school trying to find candidates to play cornerback for him, but it’s not far from the truth.
People point to the Jets ability to stop the run (#4 in the league) as hope they’ll slow down the Chiefs third-ranked rushing offense, but a closer look at the numbers brings that rank into question.
The highest-ranked rushing offense the Jets have played in their first eight games was New England (#17) in Week 7. Pats starter Shane Vereen rushed for 43 yards on 11 carries – a decent 3.9 yards per carry. Unfortunately for New York, Vereen added another 71 yards receiving and two touchdowns on 5 receptions.
The rest of the Jets schedule has featured the following rushing juggernauts and their NFL rank in running the ball (in parentheses): Oakland (#32), Green Bay (#24), Chicago (#18), Detroit (#31), San Diego (#30), Denver (#21), New England, and Buffalo (#23). None of them breaks into the top half of the NFL in rushing and three are literally the bottom three in the league.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, have the best running back in the league in Jamaal Charles and an excellent #2 guy in Knile Davis. There is no better RB tandem in the league.
So what do the Men in Red have to do to win their third game in a row and firmly put themselves back into the playoff race? Here are three things fans should watch for:
Make the Jets beat you with the passing game: Despite the fact that this article so far has taken a big dump on the Jets and their problems, the one thing they do as well as just about any team is run the ball. Former New Orleans Saint, Chris Ivory, has been a battering ram for New York and is averaging a healthy 4.7 yards per rush. Former Titans RB and 2000-yard back, Chris Johnson, hasn’t broken out yet in his first year in the Big Apple, but it looks like he has the speed to take it to the end zone from anywhere. Because the Jets wide receivers aren’t much better than the Chiefs, it would be smart to shut down Ivory and Johnson and put the ball on the shoulders of the Jets turnover-prone passing game.
Get the wide receiving corps involved with quick slants: It can be argued that the current state of the Jets secondary is the worst in the league. Between injuries and poor play, Ryan is scrambling to get guys back there who have a chance at not embarrassing themselves. Apparently it isn’t working. In the last five games, the Jets secondary has been absolutely brutalized by opposing wide receivers. Normally, the Chiefs don’t have the weaponry to take advantage of that, as KC is the only team in the league without a touchdown catch from their wide receivers. It’s time Reid and offensive coordinator Doug Pedersen change that.
With a strong Jets pass rush and frequent blitzing, the Chiefs won’t be able to let Alex Smith take a deep drop and throw long downfield. However, the Chiefs should be able to open things up with short slant patterns that the receivers can catch and then quickly turn upfield. A quick, short passing game, the kind that Mr Smith excels in at QB for the Chiefs, will slow down the rush and open up the running game in the second half. It’s the guess here that Mr. Dwayne Bowe gets his first TD of the season.
Unleash the hounds on Mr. Vick: Vick becomes the first left-handed quarterback to start a game for NY since Boomer Esiason was the main guy in 1995. While switching from a righty to a lefty at QB may not sound like a big deal to the casual fan but it actually is. And doing it in the middle of the season while the walls crash around the current regime is more difficult. Lefties throw the ball with a different spin, so the Jets receivers will have to adjust – something no one is sure they are capable of doing. For the O-line, the blocking schemes are suddenly reversed and that take time to learn. Finally, Jets right tackle, Breno Giacomini gets the pleasurable task of protecting Vick’s blind side from Justin Houston, the leading sack master in the NFL. And for a QB that has trouble with fumbles, it’s almost a sure bet that Houston will be foaming at the mouth to get into the Jets backfield.
Prediction: A visiting team in complete turmoil turning the offense over to a new quarterback and playing in the hostile confines of Arrowhead with nearly 80,000 ticked-off Chiefs fans who think Alex Gordon of the KC Royals should have tried to score from third in Game Seven of the World Series, will be tough to overcome for an erratic, undisciplined team whose season is nearly 90% down the toilet? The game is probably close at halftime, but the Chiefs use several Jet turnovers in the second half to blow the game open and cruise.
Score: Chiefs 31, Jets 14.