No one was more complimentary to the New York Jets than their Sunday opponent, the defending champion Chiefs.
It’s hard enough for New York Jets fans to say anything nice about their team these days. Their upcoming opponents, on the other hand, were more than happy to offer pleasantries.
Murphy’s Law personified, the Jets’ season from the depths of the football underworld gets scarier just in time for Halloween, as they’ll take on the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
Kansas City’s first Super Bowl title in five decades might be enough to give Jets fans the slightest hope they can end their own championship drought, but this season has shown that New York is further from a championship than East Rutherford is from Paris of the Plains. The Chiefs’ title defense has gotten off to a strong start, as they sit atop the AFC West with a 6-1 mark. Patrick Mahomes has returned to the fold, but he surprisingly was responsible for only one touchdown in their most recent victory over Denver. New on-field studs have risen, including rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire (the NFL’s second-leading rusher behind Derrick Henry) and a defense that has forced 13 turnovers (second-best in the NFL behind Cleveland).
Those factors and more have inflated the spread for Sunday’s match, with many expecting a massacre. FanDuel currently lists the Chiefs as 19.5-point favorites, and their attempts to cover may be one of the few attractions for viewers outside of Kansas City and New York. Jets fans may hold a macabre interest in the performance of Le’Veon Bell, the running back dismissed from the Jets just 17 games into a four-year, $52.5 million contract. Bell made his debut in red last weekend, earning 39 yards on six carries in the win over Denver. The stage could well be set for an embarrassment of epic proportions.
But if Kansas City is indeed taking the Jets lightly, they certainly haven’t shown it in the lead-up to Sunday.
The most jaw-dropping comments came from Kansas City defender Chris Jones. According to ESPN’s Adam Teicher, Jones referred to the Jets as “a very good football team”, an idea that “people tend to forget that because they haven’t won a game.” Per video from SNY, Jones had further praise for his quarterback prey Sam Darnold, remarking that “he doesn’t get the credit, but he’s a very, very good quarterback.”
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid only added to the toasting of the Jets, even offering kind words to his embattled counterpart Adam Gase.
“We look forward to the challenge of playing the Jets. They’re a good football team, well-coached,” Reid said, per Charles Goldman of Chiefs Wire. “This league is all about parity. That’s what the league strives for. It’s never as good as you think and it’s never as bad as you think. Whether it’s driven by the gambling or the media or whatever it’s driven by that presents those numbers… I don’t pay attention to them first…I go off of what I see on tape.”
“Every week, somebody gets picked off that was one of these ‘favorites’ or whatever. So you go back and you focus on your agenda. You study the opponent, you respect the opponent and then you get yourself right and make yourself get better every week. If you lose focus on that, then you have a problem in this league. These are good football players and good coaches, the best in the world, right? You don’t lose focus on that.”
It’s bulletin board material for sure, though perhaps more of an inspiration kind rather than antagonistic.
But competition will nonetheless ensue at Arrowhead, where the Jets haven’t won since 1998. It will be a game driven by revenge, not only from Bell’s point of view but perhaps from that of the deadly Mahomes as well.
The Texas Tech quarterback was on the board when the Jets chose sixth in the 2017 NFL Draft. But the Jets instead went with LSU safety Jamal Adams, who would later go on to share MVP honors with Mahomes at the 2019 Pro Bowl in Orlando. Adams spent three strong years with the Jets but his time in New York came to an unceremonious end this offseason, vocally demanding a trade in the latter stages of the summer. The Jets eventually granted Adams’ request with a trade to Seattle, six months after Mahomes and Chiefs topped San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV in South Beach.
Mahomes took the time to recall his positive experiences during that draft process with the Jets this week, though his words may only cause Jets fans more pain than reassurance.
“I definitely thought there was interest there,” Mahomes said of the Jets, per Pete Grathoff of KansasCity.com. “Whenever you get on those visits, you know they’re pretty interested in doing their due diligence, so I mean I definitely thought there was some interest there. At the time they drafted a great player in Jamal Adams so you can’t really argue with that one.”
Though the aging Josh McCown would start the 2018 season, the Jets were apparently convinced that their quarterback of the future was already on the roster, likely through 2016 second-round pick Christian Hackenberg. But the Penn State product never appeared in an NFL game and was later let go in 2018. Hackenberg would spend time in Cincinnati and Philadelphia’s systems before flaming out with the Memphis Express of the Alliance of American Football.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags