Here’s The Star’s weekly game preview detailing the key players and matchups for the KC Chiefs’ game against the New York Jets, 4-7, at noon Sunday at MetLife Stadium. The game will air on CBS (Chs. 5, 13).
Head coach: Todd Bowles (19-24) is in his third year on the job. Bowles, 54, is a former free safety and four-year starter at Temple University who was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2001. He signed with Washington as an undrafted free agent in 1986 and carved out an eight-year career that included a stint with the San Francisco 49ers. When his playing career came to a close, he spent three years coaching at Morehouse University before joining the Jets as their secondary coach in 2000. He also enjoyed stints in the same position with the Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles, with the latter coming in 2012, when he also served as an interim defensive coordinator for current Chiefs coach Andy Reid. Bowles then moved on to the Arizona Cardinals, where he fielded one of the league’s best defenses the next two years and was chosen the AP’s assistant coach of the year in 2014. He was hired to be the Jets’ head coach following the firing of Rex Ryan.
Offense: John Morton, 48, is in his first year as the Jets’ offensive coordinator. He was hired after spending the previous two years under offensive guru Sean Payton as the New Orleans Saints’ receivers coach. Morton, a former CFL receiver who also served as offensive coordinator at USC under Pete Carroll from 2009-2010 and receivers coach in San Francisco under Jim Harbaugh during 2011-2014, has done an admirable job this year with a unit that was expected to be putrid. The Jets rank 23rd in total offense (314.5 yards per game), 18th in passing offense (212.3) and 20th in rushing offense (102.3). The Jets like to run the ball behind the right tackle, where they rank eighth in the league in attempts and first in the league in average gain (6.6 yards). New York is passing the ball 58 percent of the time, which ranks 16th in the NFL, and typically attacks the right side when going deep, where it ranks first in the league in average gain (18.9 yards per play). The Jets also rank third in the NFL in average gain over the short middle (9.47 yards) and rarely use play-action (12 percent, 30th in the league), according to Football Outsiders.
Defense: Kacy Rodgers, 48, is in his third year as the Jets’ defensive coordinator. Rodgers, a four-year letterman at the University of Tennessee, spent nine years coaching defensive lines in college before he was hired to be the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive tackles coach in 2003. He eventually spent seven years as the Miami Dolphins’ defensive line coach before taking his current position with the Jets. New York runs a 3-4 defense that ranks 20th in total defense (342.5 yards per game), 15th in pass defense (222.2) and 23rd in sacks (22). Teams love to attack the left side of the Jets’ defense with the pass, be it short (eighth-most attempts) or deep (seventh-most attempts). They also fare well against play action, yielding 7 yards per attempt on such plays (tied for seventh in the league). The Jets are also surrendering 9.31 yards per gain on throws over the middle, which ranks 25th in the league, though teams rarely do it (31st in attempts). New York’s run defense also ranks 26th in the league (120.4), as teams typically run the ball behind the left guard against the Jets, who are surrendering an average of 4.02 yards on such plays — 23rd in the league. The Jets are also surrendering more than 4 yards per play on runs behind the center and right guard.
Special teams: Brant Boyer, 46, is in his second year as the Jets’ special-teams coach. Boyer, a former linebacker at the University of Arizona who carved out a 10-year NFL career, served as a training camp intern for the Cleveland Browns in 2009 and the New York Giants in 2010 before joining the Indianapolis Colts as an assistant special-teams coach in 2012, a position he served in until 2016, when he was hired for his current position with the Jets. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro has made 18 of 22 field-goal attempts, and his 82 percent conversion rate ranks 21st in the league among players with at least 10 attempts. Punter Lac Edwards has dropped four of his 61 punts inside the 20, tied for 18th in the league. The Jets rank 23rd in kickoff returns (20.4 yards per return) and 30th in punt returns (5.1). They also rank 21st in kick-return coverage (22.6) and 24th in punt-return coverage (10.2), where they’ve surrendered a touchdown.
Four keys to a Chiefs victory
1. Come out with some juice
It’s been weeks — WEEKS — since the Chiefs started a game with any energy on offense. Much of that is tied to execution, because — as many players privately pointed out this week — it’s hard to be excited when you aren’t seeing results on a play-by-play basis. The Chiefs need to hit on a big play early offensively. Whether it’s Alex Smith, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce or even Kareem Hunt, who has been quiet for the better part of a month, somebody has to do something to energize his teammates in the first quarter. Otherwise, we could be tracking toward another inept performance.
2. Dominate up front
The Jets’ defense is probably a little better than you think, particularly the front seven. The starting interior defensive line of Leonard Williams, Steve McClendon and Mo Wilkerson has the potential to dominate the Chiefs up front if the offensive line doesn’t come to play. In fact, they’re banking on it. Teams that have had success against the Jets this year have been able to win at the line of scrimmage, forcing them to bring their safeties closer to the action (which opens up the pass). It’s time for the Chiefs’ offensive line to get on track. If it doesn’t, there could be some tough sledding against this Jets defense, which also features a really good inside linebacker in Demario Davis.
3. Pressure McCown
The Jets’ offensive line has been a disappointment, and quarterback Josh McCown has constantly found himself under fire this season. He’s been sacked 35 times this season, tied for the third-most in football, which means the Chiefs have a chance to get after him. Justin Houston could have a nice game against right tackle Brandon Shell, while left tackle Kelvin Beachum is solid. The Chiefs could really make hay against the Jets’ interior, which has struggled in pass protection. That means Bennie Logan, Allen Bailey and Chris Jones need to do their part to make life difficult on McCown.
4. Win the special-teams battle
The best way to snap out of a slump like the Chiefs’ is to win the special-teams battle, and let’s face it, it’s been a while — week 5 against Houston — since the Chiefs’ special teams have made a game-changing play. That’s not like the Chiefs, especially with special-teams guru Dave Toub in charge. Teams are actively trying to take away Tyreek Hill by skying punts high in the air, but Toub says that’s no excuse. “When we don’t make a big play, we feel like it was a bad game for us,” Toub said. “Last week we felt like we didn’t contribute to helping us win that game so it was disappointing. But we can bounce back and have a good one this week.”
Four Jets to watch
No. 15, QB Josh McCown, 38 years old, 6-4, 218, 15th season
Third-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2002 who has played for 10 teams during his journeyman career. Completed 54.5 percent of his passes for 1,100 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions in five games last season with the Cleveland Browns. Has surprised this year for the Jets, as he’s on pace to complete 67.3 percent of his passes for 3,708 yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions — a career year. Is on track to start all 16 games for the first time in his career. Has also rushed 28 times for 98 yards and three touchdowns. Generally makes good decisions with the football, at least this year. Is aggressive with his downfield shots but is most accurate on short passes. Has enough arm strength to make most of the throws. Needs to do a better job securing the football; has fumbled 10 times this year. Decent runner for his age.
No. 11, WR Robby Anderson, 24 years old, 6-3, 190, second season
Former undrafted free agent who is building off a rookie season in which he caught 42 passes for 587 yards and two touchdowns in 16 games. Is on track to catch 60 passes for 1,039 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Long-ball threat who must be accounted for vertically. Can really run; ran a blistering 4.34 40-yard dash at his pro day a few years ago, even though it didn’t always look that way on tape. Has good ball skills and can win jump balls vertically. Has the tools to make difficult catches but will make the occasional focus drop. Can be re-routed by physical corners due to his frame. Lack of strength hurts him as a run blocker.
No. 92, DE Leonard Williams, 23 years old, 6-5, 302, third season
Former No. 6 overall pick who posted a breakout second season in 2016 in which he recorded 68 tackles, seven sacks and 19 quarterback hurries and went to the Pro Bowl. Numbers have fallen off some this year, as he’s on pace to finish with 52 tackles, three sacks and 28 hurries, but is still very disruptive vs. the run and pass. Has all the physical tools to be an All-Pro defensive lineman. Good athlete with strength and quickness who is living up to his draft status. Was inconsistent off the snap in college but has gotten better at that. Has a bull rush and plays his tail off. Leads the Jets in snaps.
No. 56, ILB Demario Davis, 28 years old, 6-2, 248, sixth season
Former Jets third-round pick in 2012 who signed with Cleveland in 2016 and recorded 99 tackles, two sacks and two pass deflections. Was traded back to the Jets this June and is in the midst of a career year in which he’s on pace to finish with 134 tackles, seven sacks and four pass deflections. Really good athlete — was a top tester at his position in multiple categories at the NFL Combine — who fits the profile of a classic run-and-hit linebacker. Plays hard and gets after it. Complete linebacker who is solid in pass coverage.
Projected Chiefs two-deep depth chart
KEY: Bold=Player to Watch, C=Captain, PB=2016 Pro Bowl, AP=2016 All-Pro, Q=Questionable
No., Name, Ht., Wt., Years
11 Alex Smith (C, PB), 6-4, 220, 13 | 15 Patrick Mahomes, 6-3, 230, R
27 Kareem Hunt, 5-11, 208, R | 31 Akeem Hunt, 5-10, 185, 3
42 Anthony Sherman, 5-10, 242, 7
14 Demarcus Robinson, 6-1, 203, 2 | 80 Jehu Chesson, 6-3, 203, R
10 Tyreek Hill (C, PB, AP), 5-10, 185, 2 | 80 Jehu Chesson, 6-3, 203, R
12 Albert Wilson (Q, hamstring), 5-9, 200, 4 | 13 De’Anthony Thomas, 5-9, 176, 4
87 Travis Kelce (C, PB, AP), 6-5, 260, 5 | 84 Demetrius Harris, 6-7, 230, 4
72 Eric Fisher, 6-7, 315, 5 | 79 Parker Ehinger, 6-6, 310, 2
73 Zach Fulton, 6-5, 316, 4 | 70 Bryan Witzmann, 6-7, 320, 3
61 Mitch Morse, 6-6, 305, 3 | 73 Zach Fulton, 6-5, 316, 4
76 Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, 6-5, 321, 4 | 70 Bryan Witzmann, 6-7, 320, 3
71 Mitchell Schwartz (AP), 6-5, 320, 6 | 75 Cameron Erving, 6-5, 313, 3
95 Chris Jones, 6-6, 310, 2 | 99 Rakeem Nunez-Roches, 6-2, 307, 3
96 Bennie Logan, 6-2, 315, 5 | 94 Jarvis Jenkins, 6-4, 300, 7
97 Allen Bailey, 6-3, 288, 7 | 99 Rakeem Nunez-Roches, 6-2, 307, 3
50 Justin Houston (C), 6-3, 258, 7 | 92 Tanoh Kpassagnon, 6-7, 280, R
56 Derrick Johnson, 6-3, 242, 13 | 57 Kevin Pierre-Louis, 6-0, 230, 4
59 Reggie Ragland, 6-1, 252, 2 | 45 Ukeme Eligwe, 6-2, 239, R
51 Frank Zombo, 6-3, 254, 8 | 91 Tamba Hali (Q, knee), 6-3, 275, 12
22 Marcus Peters (PB, AP), 6-0, 197, 3 | 23 Phillip Gaines, 6-0, 193, 4
38 Ron Parker, 6-0, 206, 7 | 30 Steven Terrell, 5-10, 197, 5
49 Daniel Sorensen, 6-2, 208, 4 | 30 Steven Terrell, 5-10, 197, 5
24 Darrelle Revis, 5-11, 198, 10 | 25 Kenneth Acker, 6-0, 195, 4
20 Steven Nelson, 5-11, 194, 3 | 39 Terrance Mitchell, 5-11, 190, 4
Projected Jets two-deep depth chart
KEY: Bold=Player to Watch, C=Captain, PB=2016 Pro Bowl, AP=2016 All-Pro, Q=Questionable, *=See “additional notes” section below for more info on player
No., Name, Ht., Wt., Years
**15 Josh McCown, 6-4, 218, 15** | 9 Bryce Petty, 6-3, 230, 3
29 Bilal Powell, 5-10, 204, 7 | 22 Matt Forté (Q, knee), 6-2, 218, 10
44 Lawrence Thomas, 6-3, 286, 2
**11 Robby Anderson, 6-3, 190, 2** | 18 ArDarius Stewart, 5-11, 204, R
10 Jermaine Kearse, 6-1, 209, 6 | 18 ArDarius Stewart, 5-11, 204, R
16 Chad Hansen, 6-2, 202, R | 87 JoJo Natson, 5-7, 153, 1
88 Austin Seferian-Jenkins, 6-5, 262, 4 | 83 Eric Tomlinson, 6-5, 262, 4
68 Kelvin Beachum, 6-3, 308, 6 | 71 Ben Ijalana, 6-4, 322, 7
77 James Carpenter, 6-5, 321, 7 | 70 Dakota Dozier, 6-4, 313,4
76 Wesley Johnson, 6-5, 297, 4 | 78 Jonotthan Harrison, 6-4, 300, 4
67 Brian Winters (Q, abdomen/ankle), 6-4, 320, 5 | 70 Dakota Dozier, 6-4, 313,4
72 Brandon Shell, 6-5, 324, 2 | 79 Brent Qvale, 6-7, 315, 3
**92 Leonard Williams (PB), 6-5, 302, 3** | 94 Kony Ealy, 6-4, 275, 4
99 Steve McLendon, 6-3, 310, 7 | 98 Mike Pennel, 6-4, 332, 4
96 Muhammad Wilkerson, 6-4, 315, 7 | 75 Xavier Cooper (Q, knee), 6-4, 300, 3
95 Josh Martin, 6-3, 245, 5 | 50 Freddie Bishop, 6-3, 255, 2
58 Darron Lee, 6-1, 232, 2 | 51 Julian Stanford, 6-1, 230, 4
**56 Demario Davis, 6-2, 239, 4** | 54 Bruce Carter, 6-2, 240, 7
48 Jordan Jenkins, 6-3, 259, 2 | 47 David Bass, 6-4, 267, 5
41 Buster Skrine, 5-9, 185, 7 | 36 Rashard Robinson, 6-2, 177, 2
33 Jamal Adams, 6-1, 213, R | 23 Terrence Brooks, 5-11, 200, 4
26 Marcus Maye, 6-0, 207, R | 45 Rontez Miles, 6-0, 203, 3
27 Darryl “Swagg” Roberts, 6-0, 182, 3 | 36 Rashard Robinson, 6-2, 177, 2
21 Morris Claiborne, 5-11, 192, 6 | 27 Darryl Roberts, 6-0, 182, 3
7 Chandler Catanzaro, 6-3, 200, 4
4 Lac Edwards, 6-4, 209, 2
87 Jojo Natson, 5-7, 153, 1
87 Jojo Natson, 5-7, 153, 1
42 Thomas Hennessy, 6-2, 246, R
Prediction: Chiefs 17-13
A leap-of-faith pick. The last time the Chiefs went 1-5 over a six-game stretch — like the one they are currently mired in — Andy Reid and company rattled off 10 wins in a row. It was one of the most impressive in-season turnarounds in years. The expectation should be that Reid can find a way to do it again, no matter how bleak things look right now. The Jets are a below-average football team — they only had one Pro Bowler a year ago and zero All-Pros — and this is a team the Chiefs should beat if they’re closer to their September form than the way they looked during their winless November. If the Chiefs lose this game there’s no way you can pick them to win next week against Oakland.