The New York Jets will welcome the Kansas City Chiefs to MetLife Stadium for a primetime Sunday Night matchup. These two teams are headed in different directions, the Chiefs have won two straight while the Jets have lost two straight and are searching for answers.
Today, let’s take a look at the Jets’ keys to victory, x-factors, and biggest matchups to watch.
6 Notes Heading into Jets vs Chiefs
Jets Offensive Key: Let It Rip
Zach Wilson and the Jets’ offense have been abysmal, to say the least, and the numbers back it up. Currently ranking last in total offense, passing offense, and scoring offense while only ranking 22nd in the NFL in rushing offense. Through 25 career games Wilson has not gotten better, at times he has regressed in different aspects.
Coming into this game against the defending Super Bowl Champions there isn’t much you can try to do that you haven’t tried already. The Jets run game has been missing for two weeks as defenses are stacking the box. Wilson even with time in the pocket last week missed open receivers and settled for check-downs because his confidence is so low.
As you enter this game potentially being Wilson’s last game for a while if newly-signed quarterback Trevor Siemian takes over next week in Denver, it’s time to take risks and let it rip downfield. One of the strengths is Wilson’s arm strength and he has the weapons that can make plays deep. Give opportunities downfield to Garrett Wilson and Mecole Hardman if he gets more playing time.
These plays deep give the Jets more chunk play opportunities which have been hard to come by. It also gives a slight chance of potential pass interference because anything for this Jets team to gain yards would be a positive. The Jets enter as 8.5-point home underdogs and are not expected to win. Nathaniel Hackett and Zach Wilson need to take chances and risks against a high-powered Chiefs team.
Jets Defensive Key: Get Pressure on Patrick Mahomes
After a rough Week 1 loss to the Detroit Lions at home without Travis Kelce, the Chiefs offense led by Patrick Mahomes has turned it around fast. Fresh off a 41-10 victory over the Chicago Bears, the Jets’ defense will have their hands full against the best quarterback in football and an offensive line that hasn’t gotten much attention but deserves more attention for their recent performance.
Even though the Jets have been able to get around the quarterback, they haven’t been able to bring him down the last two weeks. In Week 1 on Monday Night against the Buffalo Bills, the Jets sacked Josh Allen five times and since then, they only have one sack in the last two games. That number doesn’t match up well against a Chiefs offensive line that has only given up one sack all season.
Along with those sack numbers, Mahomes has only been pressured on 25.4% of his dropbacks through three games this season, which is a career low. And is especially low in a season where quarterbacks are getting sacked at the highest rate since 1997. If the Jets want any chance of pulling off an upset they are going to need to get pressure and finish sacks on Mahomes. Quinnen Williams is a player to watch for as he still looks for his first sack of the 2023 campaign.
Jets Offensive X-Factor: Mecole Hardman
After signing a one-year contract with the Jets in the offseason, Hardman has not seen the playing time he and many fans expected. Through three games, Hardman has only played 16 snaps. In those 16 snaps, he has tallied only one catch for six yards.
The Jets need to find ways to get him involved this Sunday against his former team. With the Jets’ offense slumping through three games, especially the last two, one thing that doesn’t slump is speed. Hardman has the speed to make plays, especially in the open field.
If the Jets let it rip with Wilson, look for Hardman deep down the field with his speed to break out big plays. Something Hardman’s speed also provides is success on gadget plays that the Jets could potentially run to try and infuse some energy and success into this offense. The bottom line is that Mecole Hardman needs to be on the field Sunday Night.
Jets Defensive X-Factor: Linebackers/Safeties
The Jets’ defense enters this week with a massive challenge facing Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce. Mahomes and Kelce are one of the best quarterback-tight end combos that the NFL has ever seen. This week, the Jets are tasked with trying to contain this duo specifically Kelce, which the Jets have struggled against tight ends.
The Patriots’ only touchdown last week came from the third tight end on the depth chart Pharaoh Brown who scored a 58-yard touchdown, the first touchdown he has scored since 2020. The reason for this touchdown was a busted coverage involving safety Jordan Whitehead who for the most part has put together a solid season thus far. This cannot happen on Sunday if the Jets want any chance to come away with an upset.
It is possible that the Jets could line up Sauce Gardner against Kelce occasionally but it’s mostly going to be up to the Jets’ linebackers and safeties. Quincy Williams, who has been phenomenal to start the season, will look to continue that on Sunday. He enters this matchup with a 91.1 PFF coverage grade which ranks first among all linebackers this season.
Jets Offensive Matchup To Watch: Jets Offensive Line vs Chiefs Defensive Line
After a brutal week for the Jets offensive line in Week 2 against Dallas they bounced back on Sunday against the Patriots. Despite the run game still having struggles due to teams stacking the box, the Jets’ pass protection was better. With Duane Brown going on the IR before week three the Jets shifted their offensive line and now have what they feel is their best five starters.
The changes on the offensive line included Mekhi Becton moving to left tackle, Alijah-Vera Tucker moving to right tackle, and rookie Joe Tippmann taking over at right guard. This group has faced Micah Parsons and Matt Judon in back-to-back weeks and will now face Chris Jones. After sitting out during Training Camp and the first week of the season, Jones already has 2.5 sacks through two games this season which is tied for the team lead.
Along with Jones, pieces like Mike Danna and second-year EDGE rusher George Karlafits have been able to get to the quarterback through three games this season. For the Jets offensive line, it is important again this week to give Zach Wilson as much time as possible hoping he can find the open receivers. As for the run game, expect the Chiefs to stack the box making it difficult but not impossible for lanes to open up for Hall, Cook, and Carter.
Jets Defensive Matchup To Watch: Jets Defensive Line vs Chiefs Offensive Line
As mentioned earlier, it’s not going to be easy for this Jets defensive line to get pressure on Mahomes who has been well-protected so far this season. Another piece to this Chiefs offense is their ability to run the ball successfully. In back-to-back weeks the Chiefs have rushed for over 100 yards including 153 last week against the Bears.
One of the problems with this Jets defense has been their ability to stop the run and it starts up front in the trenches. The Jets’ defense in back-to-back games has had struggles stopping the run, allowing 134 rushing yards against Dallas and 157 rushing yards against New England.
The Jets are currently allowing 129.3 rushing yards per game and that needs to be lowered this week. Not only is getting to Mahomes important but finding ways to blow up running lanes against this talented Chiefs offensive line is huge heading into Sunday Night.
Chiefs win, 27-10.