Two of the coldest teams in the NFL, the New York Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs (both 1-5 in their last six), will clash in a must-see battle for the ages in the Meadowlands this Sunday featuring legends Josh McCown and Alex Smith. The Jets need to win out to have any hope of a miracle playoff appearance. The Chiefs still maintain their AFC West lead despite their struggles, but now have the Chargers and Raiders (5-6) both coming up fast in their rearview mirror.
To preview this Sunday’s contest, I asked Joel Thorman of Arrowhead Pride five questions on KC.
1. It seemed like an Alex Smith renaissance and Kareem Hunt's surprise breakout were going to be the keys to one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. What has happened over the past few weeks that has caused that Kansas City offensive unit to go silent?
Everything happened. The Chiefs offense is broken all around. Alex Smith holds some blame because he's bailed out of pockets early and hasn't stretched the field like he did earlier in the season. Additionally, he's struggled lately with two things he's been good at in his career -- accuracy and turnovers. The Chiefs offensive line isn't getting enough of a push for Kareem Hunt, who is getting hit in the backfield far too often. The Chiefs can't seem to beat some basic defenses so it feels like there is something fundamentally wrong. That said, Andy Reid has been here before. I gotta have some trust that he can figure out how to beat this thing.
2. How is the Pat Mahomes watch? How did he look in training camp/preseason, and is there a chance we see him anytime soon?
People are talking more about Patrick Mahomes this week than we ever have after Alex Smith struggled badly for two consecutive games. It doesn't appear the Chiefs are making that move this week but it feels like we're closer than we ever have been. He looked good in the preseason. Of course, he wasn't running a complicated offensive scheme but you could clearly see he has some playmaking ability and a hell of an arm. Coming from an Alex Smith-led offense, it was cool to see something so much different than what we were used to seeing.
3. Is there an unknown/unheralded Chief that Jets fans should be wary of?
You may remember him from Buffalo but Reggie Ragland has been good for the Chiefs as an inside linebacker. They traded for him before the season and he was quiet for a few weeks before stepping in the second half of the season and playing well. He really stepped up last week against the Bills so he's someone to watch out for in the run game.
4. Where might the Chiefs be at a disadvantage against this Jets roster in particular?
The Chiefs offensive line has been struggling lately. If the Jets defensive line can get a push, they can create some problems for the Chiefs on offense. We've seen Kareem Hunt get hit far too often in the backfield and we've seen Alex Smith bailing out of pockets due to pressure (or even phantom pressure). The Chiefs have had some problems with those penetrating defensive lines so if you can shut down the run game and make the Chiefs one dimensional the Jets could have an advantage.
5. What is the ceiling for this year's Kansas City team? Do they truly have the talent to hang deep into the AFC Playoffs if they can stay in the picture, or has this stretch raised too many questions for them to be considered more than a borderline team?
Depends which Chiefs team you're talking about. The team that beat the Patriots and Eagles already and started the season 5-0 can go into any stadium and win. That team is a contender. The team we've seen since then, the one that's gone 1-5 and hasn't put up more than 17 points since October, may not even make the playoffs. It's incredible the range we've seen from this year's Chiefs team. I really don't know how to answer your question because the extremes are so, um, extreme. My gut tells me they're somewhere in the middle -- maybe they can win a playoff game but they're not likely to make a run.