The Jets enter Sunday's matchup with the Chiefs both winless and as a historically large underdog. Still searching for their first victory as they reach their season's midway point, the Jets (0-7) will face a Kansas City (6-1) club that is the defending Super Bowl champions and loaded in all three phases.
"It's the ultimate complementary football game," said Jets Head Coach Adam Gase. "We know who we're playing, we know what they did last year, we know what they've done this year. We just try to make sure that we give our keys to the game in all three phases and understand how we have to play together as a group. But we need each phase to execute things a certain way."
The Chiefs have scored 23+ points in 21 consecutive games and they have the only defense in the NFL to hold opponents to 20 points or fewer six times this season. They scored a touchdown on offense, defense and special teams in their Week 7 triumph over the Broncos and they're led by the NFL's brightest young star in QB Patrick Mahomes.
"He's the best quarterback guy that I've seen," said Gase of Mahomes, the Super Bowl LIV MVP and the NFL 2018 MVP who has thrown for 16 TDs and 1 INT in 2020. "I mean I haven't seen him play in person yet, but on tape just some of the things he does are unreal. The guy is phenomenal and when you're watching it looks like he's playing at a different speed than everybody else. It just seems like this game is way too easy for him from what I've seen in the past with good quarterbacks. He makes it look really easy."
Nothing has been easy for Jets quarterback Sam Darnold this season. Darnold, who returned to the lineup last week after a two-game absence because of a shoulder injury, was sacked 6 times against the Bills as the offense went stagnant in the second half of a 18-10 defeat. Darnold has had flashes of brilliance in Year 3, but he's connected on just 58.4% of his passes with 3 TDs and 6 INTs and he's been sacked 18 times.
"I'm always optimistic about different situations whether they're good or bad," he said this week. "Obviously we're not where we want to be right now. We're 0-7 and it's not ideal."
What is ideal for the Jets is that they are beginning to see more production from a promising 2020 draft class. Mekhi Becton has been outstanding at LT, WR Denzel Mims saw his first NFL action against the Bills and grabbed four receptions, RB La'Mical Perine scored his first pro touchdown last week and also displayed his jets on a 20-yard run. Safety Ashtyn Davis could make his first professional start against the Chiefs as veteran Bradley McDougald (shoulder) will likely sit and DE Jabari Zuniga was activated to the roster earlier this week.
"What I love about this team is that the young guys come to work every day and bust their behinds," said RB Frank Gore. "When you watch us practice, you can't tell we're an 0-7 team. With these young men this organization is going to be in good hands."
For the second consecutive game, Gase will direct from a 30,000 foot view in Kansas City. After calling offensive plays for his first 22 games with the Jets, Gase has directed offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains to handle the play-calling against a Chiefs defense that is ninth in scoring (20.4 Pts/G), second in takeaways (13), and features DT Chris Jones, DE Frank Clark and S Tyrann Mathieu.
"The defense is going to have their hands full — we know that," said TE Ryan Griffin. "So we have to pitch a perfect game really offensively in order to give us a chance to win in Kansas City. We know it's a tall challenge, but we're looking forward to it."
Although the offense was far from perfect against Buffalo, it was good in the opening half while totaling 186 yards and 15 first downs and controlling the clock for nearly 19 minutes. But any momentum evaporated in the second half as the Green & White were locked down to 4 yards on 16 plays. The Chiefs don't have many weaknesses, but they yield nearly 150 yards (149.9) a contest on the ground and they are 23rd in red-zone defense (70%).
"We have to take another step this week," said Gore. "We have to try to keep the ball on the offensive side, and keep Kansas City's explosive offense off the field, and we have to play all four quarters."
In four of their six wins, the Chiefs have claimed decisions by 14+ points. KC Head Coach Andy Reid, well on his way to guiding the Chiefs to their seventh double-digit win total in eight seasons, is not about to let his juggernaut overlook the NFL's only winless club.
"Every week somebody gets picked off that was one of these favorites or whatever, so you go back and you focus on your agenda," Reid said. "You study the opponent, you respect the opponent and then you get yourself right to make you get better every week. If you lose focus on that, then you have a problem in this league."
The Jets would love to be a problem for the Chiefs, but they know it will take their best effort of the 2020 season to have a chance.
"It's a good way as a team to see what you're made of," said veteran right guard Greg Van Roten. "Our record is what it is. This is a chance to play a really good team. If you can't get excited, if you can't find a way to get up for that game, then there's something wrong with you."