When the Chiefs (6-5) take on the New York Jets (4-7) today at MetLife, they’ll be hoping to something they’ve only done only once in the last six games: win. Despite a plethora of talent on both sides of the ball, the Chiefs best players have gone strangely quiet. QB Alex Smith isn’t the MVP candidate we thought he was earlier, and thanks to a poor offensive line, Kareem Hunt isn’t breaking big runs (or any runs) like he was in September.
Fortunately, the Chiefs still control their own destiny. They still lead the division, and while the Jets have been far tougher draws than expected, there’s a reason why they have seven losses. To push that number to eight, here’s what the Chiefs must do:
1. Run the ball
All week long we’ve heard from various Chiefs about their inabilities to gain yardage against Cover-2 defenses. It’s one of the simplest coverage concepts in football, yet their offense is stumped by it each week. To force defenses into dropping a safety into the box, the Chiefs may want to establish a run game. Hunt is barely hitting double-digit rushing totals, but if he can start hitting big plays it may force defenses to be more aggressive.
2. Deep balls
Speaking of aggression, where’s the deep ball gone for Smith? Cover-2 hasn’t helped, but when the opportunities have presented themselves Smith hasn’t taken advantage. Against a beatable Jets secondary, Smith must take risks and allow his receivers to make plays. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce can do hordes of damage when the ball is actually in their hands.
The Chiefs defense has been terrible all season, but the Jets present an opportunity to get their sack totals up. Josh McCown is no Tyrod Taylor, and if they can get in his face, it will help the coverage tremendously. I think Justin Houston could get three sacks today.
4. Special teams
Where is the excitement? Dave Toub’s return units haven’t been very electric this season, but a few big returns today could help a stagnant offense.
5. The Chargers
The Chiefs have seen their early division lead shrink, and with the Chargers on their heels, the chance for a consecutive division title should be added determination to come away with a win. If they lose today, there’s a very good chance they don’t make the playoffs at all, given the clustered nature of the Wild Card race.
Prediction: Andy Reid has handed over the play-calling to OC Matt Nagy in an effort to rejuvenate a stagnant offense. The Chiefs find a run game, and Smith fends off Mahomes (for now…although Reid said he is the starter for the rest of the season) with a solid performance. Chiefs 28-17.
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