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Five things to watch as the Chiefs play the Jets

The two teams matchup for the biggest point spread of the NFL season

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NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at New York Jets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In the NFL, the phrase “any given Sunday” is used to describe how supremely talented all 32 teams are. Any team can beat any team in any week; there are rarely instances of a team being helplessly outmatched.

That being said, the contest between the Kansas City Chiefs (6-1) and the New York Jets (0-7) is as close to a tale of David and Goliath as a game has been this season. The Chiefs opened as 21.5-point favorites according to the oddsmakers, but the line has fallen to its current mark, 19.5 points.

The Jets are undoubtedly the worst team in the league, and they won’t even be at full strength. Wide receiver Jameson Crowder — the team’s leader in every major receiving category — is doubtful for the game with a groin injury, and starting safety Bradley McDougald has been ruled out with a shoulder injury.

That being said, crazier upsets have happened, and the Jets are coming off of their best performance of the season — a 18-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

I have five things to watch in the Week 8 contest:

1. Le’Veon Bell’s revenge

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

This is the game we’ve all been waiting for — and that’s including Chiefs running back Le’Veon Bell.

Just a few weeks ago, the Jets released Bell after a two-season saga that included head coach Adam Gase reportedly admitting he did not want Bell on the team from the start. Now, Bell is a part of the league’s most dynamic offense — and should be comfortable enough to see a good chunk of work against his former team. Sunday will be 17 days since he initially signed with the Chiefs.

In his debut game against the Denver Broncos, Bell saw six carries and earned 39 yards — including two 16-yard runs. This week, the predicted blowout could be a favorable game-script for Bell to have his revenge game.

Him and rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire appeared to split series last week but did show a formation with both of them simultaneously on the field. Head coach Andy Reid likely recognizes Bell’s motivation, and could lean on him to carry the load and give Edwards-Helaire some much-needed rest if the Chiefs get out to a good lead.

2. A big day from the Chiefs’ pass rush

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The defensive front had success pressuring Broncos quarterback Drew Lock last week in the snow. This week, they should have an even better opportunity to get to Jets quarterback Sam Darnold at home.

New York has allowed a sack on 9.1% of their attempts to pass — the third-highest rate in the NFL this season. On top of that, they are banged up on their offensive line. Rookie starting left tackle Mekhi Becton has been good when he’s played but has been fighting a shoulder injury for the last few weeks. Starting left guard Alex Lewis missed the Week 7 game with a shoulder injury and has been limited in practice this week.

The Jets are hoping Lewis can return. His replacement last week — left guard Josh Andrews — gave up nine pressures by himself in his only start this season. Andrews is also nursing a shoulder injury and has been limited in practice this week.

The game script in a potential blowout could force the Jets to pass at a high rate. That will only make it easier for Chiefs pass rushers to pin their ears back and go, and the group will be reinforced with the possible return of defensive ends Taco Charlton and Mike Danna — who was activated to the 53-man roster on Saturday after being on the IR with a hamstring injury since after Week 4.

3. The impact of Quinnen Williams

NFL: New York Jets at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

As the trade deadline approaches, rumors have been swirling about teams contacting the Jets to trade for second-year defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. There’s a reason there are so many rumors: he’s really good, and other NFL teams know that.

The 2019 third-overall selection has likely been the Jets’ most impressive player this season. Defensive tackle Chris Jones complimented Williams’ play this season, calling it “stellar” in his Thursday press conference and expressing that he’s watched Williams’ film to learn from, along with other defensive tackles like Aaron Donald, Grady Jarrett, Fletcher Cox and DeForest Buckner.

Williams has three sacks this season, and he is second on the team with 13 total pressures. His presence opens up opportunities for his teammates. Defensive tackle John Franklin-Myers leads the Jets with 21 pressures this season; he benefits from the additional attention on Williams in pass protection. Besides rushing the passer, Williams is graded as the team’s best run defender, according to PFF.

The Chiefs’ interior offensive line has been shifted around as of late. Left guard Nick Allegretti will be making his second career start and will face his toughest test yet. Williams primarily lines up on the right side of the defense.

4. Young defensive players

NFL: New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs have a group of rookie defenders that have impressed in limited roles this season. Linebacker Willie Gay Jr. and defensive tackle Tershawn Wharton have seen more and more snaps as the season goes on, Mike Danna made solid contributions before his injury, and cornerback L’Jarius Sneed led the league in interceptions at the time he broke his collarbone.

While Sneed won’t be on the field against the Jets, Gay, Wharton, and Danna all should be. The young players could see more snaps than they have all season if the game goes as oddsmakers believe it will. An early Chiefs lead could give the coaching staff an opportunity to let their rookies loose and rest veteran players.

It may be our best look at Gay yet. The Jets’ injuries to their receiving corps could force them to rely on heavier personnel packages. Gay has been starting in the base formation, which matches up against the bigger offensive packages. If the game does get out of hand in the Chiefs’ favor, it could be a chance for the coaching staff to give Gay looks in the nickel formation and rest linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson.

5. Wide receiver rotation

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Starting wide receiver Sammy Watkins has officially been announced as out for Week 8. For the third-straight week, reserve wide receivers have the chance to step up in their place. All three have made significant plays in the time Watkins has been sidelined.

Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson had three important catches in the Chiefs’ 26-17 win over the Bills, although none were as big as wide receiver Byron Pringle’s 37-yard reception to help seal the victory. Wide receiver Mecole Hardman bounced back from a quiet game against the Bills to earn 70 total offensive yards on three touches. He also had a good game returning punts, according to special teams coordinator Dave Toub.

Pringle’s 102-yard kick-return touchdown showed off his straight-line speed combined with his big-bodied physique. Toub said it will lead to more return opportunities, but could it also translate to more offensive snaps? It may be tough to tell in a game that could end with a lot of garbage time, but it will be something to monitor.

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