On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs face the New York Jets. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Kansas City is favored to win. We welcome MacGregor Wells of Gang Green Nation — our sister SBNation site covering the New York Jets — for Five Questions with the Enemy.
1. Jets fans have been through a range of emotions over the first three weeks of the season. How would you assess the start to the season?
Well, the start to the Jets season was losing Aaron Rodgers for the season after four offensive plays. Needless to say that was a disaster for the Jets. They built their whole offseason around bringing in the future Hall of Fame quarterback. They hired his former offensive coordinator, brought in a bunch of his former teammates, and traded away some very valuable draft assets, all to center the team around Rodgers and move on from 15 years of dreadful quarterback play. Then it all went up in smoke. The Jets won their opening day game against the Buffalo Bills despite the Rodgers injury, largely on the backs of a great defensive effort and Josh Allen imploding. Since that unlikely opening day victory it has, predictably, been all downhill. Zach Wilson continues to remind everyone why he is not a starting caliber NFL quarterback, and without a starting caliber NFL quarterback it is nearly impossible to win on a consistent basis in the NFL.
2. Zach Wilson’s struggles are well documented. How long before the Jets move on? Would you take someone off the street, or are there any inhouse options you like?
As bad as Zach Wilson is, I’m not sure there are many options that are materially better at this point. The Jets signed Trevor Siemian. Yawn. Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan are available. Double Yawn. Some of these options might be a bit better than Wilson, but none move the needle. The problem is the Jets didn’t make any effort to address the backup quarterback position in the offseason, when there were more credible options available. At this point, whether it’s Zach Wilson, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan, Trevor Siemian, or whatever other underwhelming options are available, none really give the Jets the chance to win on a consistent basis. Barring a trade for somebody on a Kirk Cousins level (possible, but unlikely), or the defense playing at an historically great level (more unlikely), the Jets are stuck with mediocrity as their ceiling and terrible as their floor.
3. The defense has been great for a while now. Who are the pillars of the unit, and can you give me an unsung hero?
The Jets defense revolves around the defensive line, particularly All Pro defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, and their trio of top cornerbacks in Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed and Michael Carter II. The defensive line has a large number of interchangeable parts who are good but not great players. They constantly rotate guys like John Franklin-Myers, Jermaine Johnson, Bryce Huff, Micheal Clemons, Quinton Jefferson and Carl Lawson in and out of the lineup, keeping them fresh. Those are good players, but the only real star on the line is Quinnen Williams.
The Jets cornerbacks group is one of the best in the NFL. Everyone knows Sauce Gardner, but D.J. Reed on the other side and Michael Carter II in the slot are also very good cornerbacks in their own right. I’d say Reed, Carter and Bryce Huff are the Jets unsung heroes on defense. Huff is perhaps the fastest off the line of any defensive lineman in the NFL. He is a bit small to play every down, so he rarely plays on running downs, but he is an excellent pass rusher who provides constant pressure while toiling in relative anonymity.
4. What can the Jets do differently offensively this week to get more success?
Uhhh … magically transform Zach Wilson into a starting caliber quarterback? Seriously, there aren’t a lot of options when the opposing teams do not consider your quarterback a threat. We can say the Jets should run the ball more effectively, but that’s pretty difficult to do when the opponents are constantly stacking the box and daring Zach Wilson to beat them, because they know he can’t. I guess if I were the Jets offensive coordinator I’d dial up some deep shots early on and hope Wilson can complete a couple. That should back the defense up a bit and provide the running game some breathing room. I’d also throw more on first down. And I’d give Wilson a simplified system where he doesn’t need to make complicated reads. Read the 1st option, if not open read the 2nd option, if not open then dump it off in the flat or run. Maybe do more with motion so Wilson can get a sense of whether the defense is in zone or man coverage. Throw the ball to Garrett Wilson, a lot. But these aren’t any kind of genius solutions. They’re obvious bandaids to try to make the best out of a bad situation at quarterback. Unless Wilson improves fairly dramatically, there’s not a lot the team can do to become a solid offensive team.
5. The Chiefs are big favorites. Do you expect the Jets to cover? Any prop bets that you like?
What’s the current spread, something like 9.5 points? No, I don’t expect the Jets to cover. Patrick Mahomes on one side vs. Zach Wilson on the other side is as big a mismatch as they come. Perhaps the Jets defense can play a brilliant game and keep the score close, but it ain’t easy keeping that Chiefs offense down for long.
As for prop bets, maybe take the under on Patrick Mahomes and 275.5 passing yards. The Jets cornerbacks are excellent. Travis Kelce should feast against the Jets safeties and linebackers, but passes to the Chiefs’ wide receivers should be held somewhat in check. Perhaps more importantly, I expect the Chiefs to go up big fairly early in the game. That would set up a second half where the Chiefs may be primarily focused on not making mistakes and running out the clock. I wouldn’t say I’m wildly confident betting against Mahomes, because he’s capable of a huge day against anyone. But the game script may make for a more muted passing performance than Mahomes might otherwise have against a more competitive opponent.
Be sure to check out the answers I gave to their questions by clicking here.