A detailed look at the key players and matchups for the Chiefs-Jets game at 3:25 Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. The game will air on CBS (Ch. 5).
[ Podcast: Interviews with Chiefs coaches and Newsday Jets beat writer Kimberley A. Martin. For more Chiefs podcasts, subscribe to SportsBeatKC on iTunes. ]
Coach: Todd Bowles (13-8) is in his second year on the job. He took over in 2015 for Rex Ryan and guided the Jets to a six-win improvement with a steady hand. He got the job by building a strong, aggressive defense in Arizona that relied on tight, man-to-man coverage and showed a knack for creating turnovers and scoring defensive touchdowns. His Jets also play good situational football on defense; they’re good in the red zone and on third down.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Offense: Chan Gailey, a former NFL head coach, is in his second year as the offensive coordinator. The offense thrived in 2015, when the Jets set club records for total offense, passing yards and completions. He has a solid reputation for doing good work with quarterbacks and using lots of three-wide formations (39 percent of the time in ’15) and four-wide (18 percent) but is generally patient with the running game.
Defense: Kacy Rodgers enters his second year as the defensive coordinator. He made his bones in the league as a defensive-line coach, where his Dolphins produced the third-most sacks of any unit from 2008 to 2014. Bowles, a respected defensive mind, reportedly does not call plays but is still involved in the defensive gameplan. The Jets have held teams to 3.4 yards per carry, the second-best mark in the league, since Bowles’ arrival, and rank fourth in takeaways since 2015.
Special teams: Returner Jalin Marshall (5-10, 200) has decent speed (4.6 40-yard dash) but is slippery and dangerous; he broke off a 65-yard return against the Bengals in Week 1, so the coverage unit will need to be on point. Marshall fumbled last week though, so the Chiefs might actively try to poke the ball out on any return. Tyreek Hill or Knile Davis may have a chance to return some kicks this week, as Nick Folk has only drilled 43 percent of his kickoffs for touchbacks this year. The Jets have been OK at covering them, though. Folk has made 6 of 7 field goals this year, tied for the second-most in the league.
Four keys to a Chiefs victory
1. Get on the same page, offensively
After a 19-12 loss to Houston that featured more instances of quarterback-receiver miscommunication than normal, everyone involved — from quarterback Alex Smith to his top target, Jeremy Maclin — needs to get back on the same page. If they can do that, they’ll have a chance to move the ball on a Jets defense that has surrendered an average of nearly 316 passing yards a game (26th in the league).
2. Stop the mistakes
The Chiefs are 26th in the NFL in turnover margin after a three-turnover game against Houston on Sunday, and that’s just not good enough. Besides, the Jets will pose enough of a challenge without giving them breaks. That especially applies up front, where the Chiefs have surrendered seven sacks (29th in the league) while the Jets have recorded seven sacks (tied for fourth). Anchored by stud defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (6-4, 315) — ranked No. 39 in the NFL’s top 100 — New York’s defensive front can really get after you.
3. Win up front
Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick likes to chuck the ball deep; they even use four-wide sets with regularity, which is a look the Chiefs haven’t seen much of this year. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said it’s offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s preferred style. “It’s something he really believes in and it causes issues from time to time from matchup standpoints,” Sutton said. “They can spread you out and do a good running the ball.” One of the best ways to disrupt teams that do this is by rushing the quarterback, which means the Chiefs’ interior linemen and edge rushers need to be able to win their individual battles up front to effect the sometimes-erratic Fitzpatrick. Perhaps they’ll try to target the two young and unproven right tackles, Brent Qvale (6-7, 315) and Ben Ijalana (6-4, 322), with stunts and blitzes. The two rotate in at the position.
4. Keep your composure
The Jets’ top trio of receivers — stud Brandon Marshall (6-4, 230) (ranked No. 25 in the NFL’s top 100), Eric Decker (6-3, 214) and Quincy Enunwa (6-2, 225) — is terrific. Most have heard of the first two receivers, but Enunwa, who is quick and powerful, has also made an impression on defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. They point is, there’s a good chance this group will make a few plays on Sunday, so the key for the Chiefs’ secondary will be keeping its composure and bouncing back. Marcus Peters will be at the center of that, especially after he’s been so animated in the first two games, but he typically finds a way to make teams pay eventually.
Four Jets to watch
No. 14, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, 33 years old, 6-2, 223, 12th season
A Harvard grad who is coming off a nice statistical season (59.6 completion percenage, 31 touchdowns, 15 interceptions). Puts enough heat on the short to intermediate routes but his accuracy can waver on deeper throws, as the ball will occasionally float. Still, he’ll regularly try to test a defense vertically, as only one other quarterback (Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton) has completed more passes of 20 yards or more than Fitzpatrick this season. Was on point against Buffalo, completed eight passes of 20 yards or more to four different receivers while constantly taking advantage of single coverage on the outside with little help over the top (finished 24 of 34 for 374 yards and one touchdown). Has very good chemistry with his receivers; can get the ball to his playmakers quickly, even if they have to make tough catches sometimes (which they often do) because his accuracy can decline on short and intermediate throws, too. Is fairly nimble in the pocket; has a knack for avoiding sacks and is not afraid to take off and run if a lane emerges (270 rushing yards in ’15). Will throw off his back foot when pressured.
No. 22, RB Matt Forte, 30 years old, 6-2, 218, 9th season
Ranked No. 90 in the NFL’s top 100. Dealt with a balky hamstring during the preseason but scored three touchdowns last week against Buffalo and has posted over 100 all-purpose yards in each of his first two games. Veteran, workhorse do-it-all back who consistently hits singles and doubles and often falls forward. Strong, patient glider with good vision who did most of his damage against Buffalo on runs between the tackles. Has good feet and is fairly nifty; has some quickness and juice when he has a head of steam but is not a burner. Has some power and possesses a knack for avoiding big hits. Has good hands, is a solid route runner (effective on screens) and is a willing and reliable pass blocker. They’ll go to quick and capable backup Bilal Powell (5-10, 204) when they want a chance of pace. They’ll team up to test a Chiefs run defense that was much better against Houston than it was against San Diego.
No. 91, DE Sheldon Richardson, 25 years old, 6-3, 294, 4th season
Former Missouri star returned in Week 2 after serving a one-game suspension for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy. Teams up with Wilkerson and Leonard Williams (6-5, 302) to form an outstanding trio of interior down linemen. Lined up at right end, both shaded to the left tackle’s outside shoulder and a few yards wider than that, against Buffalo. Also lined up in the “A” gap between the center and left guard and as a three-technique (in passing situations) and showed good quickness off the snap. Rushed from a two- and three-point stance off the edge, where his initial quickness and athleticism for an edge player is adequate; still shows burst on stunts. Generally plays hard and pursues, both laterally and downfield, as he actively hunts tackles. Has powerful hands — can shock and jolt linemen when engaged, then find the ball. Has effective swim and rip moves and will use both, with good results. Only played 75 percent of the snaps against Buffalo, compared to 96 percent for Wilkerson and 85 percent for Williams. Finished the game with four tackles.
No. 24, CB Darrelle Revis, 31, 5-11, 198, 10th season
Pro Bowler in seven of the last eight seasons who ranked No. 24 on the NFL’s top 100 list for 2016 but has struggled some in coverage this season. Mainly lines up at left cornerback unless he’s traveling with a receiver; will be interesting to see if they match him up with Jeremy Maclin. Cincinnati’s A.J. Green caught 12 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown while being shadowed by Revis in Week 1. Revis was also beat over the top for a long touchdown last week against Buffalo on a play in which he appeared to be late with his eyes. Willing tackler who generally gets the job done, even in space. Had four fumble recoveries last year, the most among cornerbacks. Very smart player who understands concepts. Still has very good feet and hips, particularly in press coverage near the line of scrimmage. Is aware and can play the ball in the air. Top-end speed and transitional quickness did not look the same against Buffalo, however; was a little grabby.
Prediction: Chiefs 24-23
The Jets will be rested after disposing of Buffalo on Thursday Night Football, but the Chiefs are coming off a bad performance in which they turned the ball over way too much and were very undisciplined. Andy Reid teams typically bounce back, so it would be a surprise if the offense didn’t look much better — and get off to a stronger start — in a winnable home game. It will be close, because the Jets are competitive, but the Chiefs are probably the better team, provided they stop shooting themselves in the foot.