The land is pretty flat around Kansas City, MO, which is peculiar since the Jets, in venturing to the Midwest for today's game against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, are facing one of the steepest climbs for a victory in their history.
The Chiefs, led by QB Patrick Mahomes, are the defending Super Bowl champions who have continued their success into the 2020 season with a 6-1 record, with four of their wins by two-plus scores (9 or more points). The Jets are at 0-7, with six of their losses by two scores or more. They haven't held a lead in all three of their road games.
A major problem for the Green & White has been health and their injury picture is murky again this week as QB Sam Darnold will be without two of his WR starters, Jamison Crowder (groin) and Breshad Perriman (concussion). With Chris Hogan still on IR, Darnold's wideout corps is expected to comprise third-year player Braxton Berrios, second-round rookie Denzel Mims coming off his NFL debut a week ago, first-year man Jeff Smith and third-year pro Vyncint Smith.
For this game the Jets have also elevated third-year WR Jaleel Scott from the practice squad. Including Scott, their young receiving quintet has totaled 60 receptions and three touchdowns in their combined careers.
How can the Jets compete in this game in which they're nearly three-touchdown underdogs? Well, in general, some teams so un-favored have been competitive in similar situations in the NFL and a few — but just a few — have even won those games. (See Jets at Bills, 1992, and of course Super Bowl III.)
And in particular, besides needing to play a near-perfect game for the upset, the Jets offense will probably need two developments.
One is a reliance on their running game, which has returned to relative health. In fact, the starting offensive line of rookie LT Mekhi Becton, LG Alex Lewis, C Connor McGovern, RG Greg Van Roten and RT George Fant is expected to be intact for only the third time this season and for the first time in five games.
They will be blocking for a ground game led by Frank Gore (questionable with a hand injury but active), rookie La'Mical Perine, who had a strong coming-out first half against Buffalo last week, and Ty Johnson.
The Jets have popped some decent runs off their left side. Meanwhile, the Chiefs have given up some big yardage off of the left side of their defensive front in coming into this game with the 30th-ranked run defense in yards/game allowed and the 29th rushing defense in yards/carry allowed.
Finally, the Jets need to be on their turnover game. As mentioned several times before, their plus-2 TO difference reads better than their record. And much of that margin has been built on the Jets not fumbling much and not losing the balls they do fumble. In fact, they have not lost a fumble for the past six games, and a seventh game against KC would set the franchise record.
But naturally one of the things the Chiefs do well is takeaways — their 13 TAs are second in the league to Cleveland's 14 and their plus-8 margin is second to Tennessee's plus-9. Darnold especially has to beware on the interception front.
The Jets' complete seven-player inactive list includes K Sam Ficken (groin), which means that Sergio Castillo, who kicked well if infrequently vs. Buffalo, has been elevated from the practice squad and will handle the placekicking again. The Jets' IA list:
- QB James Morgan
- K Sam Ficken
- WR Breshad Perriman
- LB Blake Cashman
- OL Jimmy Murray
- OL Cameron Clark
- WR Jamison Crowder
And here are the Chiefs' seven inactives:
- WR Sammy Watkins
- RB DeAndre Washington
- LB Darius Harris
- DE Demone Harris
- T Mitchell Schwartz
- TE Ricky Seals-Jones
- DT Khalen Saunders