Defending champion Chiefs praise New York Jets as Week 8 matchup looms

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

Four plays that decided the Buffalo Bills’ Monday fate vs. Kansas City

An ugly second half against the defending champions doomed the Buffalo Bills on a rainy night in Orchard Park.

The Buffalo Bills managed to keep Patrick Mahomes mostly in check on a rainy Monday night, but it still wasn’t enough to take down the defending Super Bowl champions.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire put up an infantile career-best 161 rushing yards, pacing the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense on a cold overcast night at Bills Stadium en route to a 26-17 victory in Monday night’s showdown between AFC divisional leaders. Mahomes did contribute to the Kansas City (5-1) cause with two touchdown passes, each to Travis Kelce.

Buffalo (4-2) has now lost consecutive regular season games while at full strength for the first time since 2018 (not counting the season-ending losses at the end of last season, when the Bills played mostly backups in their unsuccessful Week 17 game against the New York Jets).

ESM looks back on the four plays, one from each quarter, that determined Buffalo’s fate on Monday night…

1st Quarter: Matt Milanooooo

If this is the way the Bills’ defense looks without Matt Milano, it might be time to give the veteran linebacker some MVP consideration in absentia.

The Bills knew it would be a tall task dealing with Kelce with or without Milano, but his prescience might’ve at least made things more difficult in the red zone. His physicality and coverage prowess were particularly missed on the Bills’ second defensive drive when Kelce outworked Tremaine Edmunds (whose still working off the effects of a shoulder injury) to score the Chiefs’ first touchdown of the game. It echoed the success Tennessee was able to earn from the tight end spot on Tuesday, as Kelce was able to match Jonnu Smith’s two touchdowns scored in Nashville.

2nd Quarter: Walk the Klein

Kelce had three receptions in the first half, each of them playing a major role in the game’s timeline. He scored another touchdown in the second quarter (one that wound up giving Kansas City the lead permanently) and seemed poised for a chance to get another when the Chiefs got the ball back with just a minute to go and all their timeouts on the board. Stationed at the Kansas City 32, Kelce took a Mahomes pass to just about midfield, where he was stripped of the ball by A.J. Klein. Josh Norman was able to pounce on it, giving Buffalo a chance to try a potential tying field before the halftime gun.

While Tyler Bass missed the 52-yard attempt, the play was part of a strong stretch for the Buffalo defense. Not only did the turnover keep things at three points going into the locker room, but they also forced another Kansas City punt on their next drive. What could’ve been a 23-10 deficit remained stagnant at 13-10. For a team facing the mighty defending champions’ high-octane offense on short rest, that’s one of several moral victories gained against a brutal opponent.

3rd Quarter: Run All Night

With 11:22 to go in the second quarter, the Bills took a 10-7 lead through a 13-play, 75-yard masterpiece that was capped off by a Stefon Diggs touchdown grab. It was a drive that took 6:43 off the game clock…nearly seven minutes without Mahomes, Kelce, Edwards-Helaire, etc. on the field.

But over their next three possessions, Buffalo ran just 14 plays, tallying only 53 yards, and 5:18 on the time of possession clock. Kansas City noticed, taking advantage by showcasing their run game. In addition to Edwards-Helaire’s breakout effort, Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson united for 43 yards in relief. Williams dealt a crushing blow to a tired Buffalo defense, busting loose for a 13-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-one.

Each of Kansas City’s eight regular-season losses in the Mahomes era has come in games where they lost the time of possession battle. Buffalo failed to fulfill that requirement on Monday, as the offense was on the field for only 22:15.

4th Quarter: One-Hit Blunder

Penalties have been a bit of an issue (6.6 per game) for the Bills despite their success in the early going. They did manage to play a mostly clean game with only four flags on Monday, including none in the first half.

However, one of them was an unforced error of drastic proportions, a show of frustration that was almost…Jets-ian in nature.

With the Bills down 20-10, Poyer was able to briefly neutralize Edwards-Helaire by stopping him on a screen pass for a loss of two. Had Poyer let go once Edwards-Helaire was forced out of bounds, the Chiefs would’ve faced a third down with seven to go at circa midfield. Alas, Poyer forced Edwards-Helaire out of bounds and slammed him to the ground, drawing a 15-yard penalty and a first down. Kansas City would go on to earn a Harrison Butker field goal, more or less settling things at a two-possession game.

Penalties are going to be an issue if the Bills have any hopes of recovering and moving forward. Their currently per game tally is eighth-worst in football.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills Game Preview Week 6: Kansas City Chiefs

The Buffalo Bills’ Monday late afternoon football excursion sees them battle the defending champions in Orchard Park.

What: Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills
Where: Bills Stadium, Orchard Park, NY
When: Monday, 5 p.m. ET
Watch: Fox/NFL Network/Amazon Prime

Schedule shifts have canceled the battle of unbeatens, but the anticipated matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs will finally get the national spotlight it deserves. 

Originally set as last week’s Thursday night football showing, the ongoing health crisis moved things between these division leaders to Monday late afternoon. It will be part of a Monday doubleheader, as the regularly scheduled meeting between the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals will kick off shortly after (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Seen by some as an AFC Championship Game preview, Monday’s game features a pair of strong squads coming off tough losses. Buffalo (4-1) was already victimized by the rescheduling process, as they forced into a Tuesday night game in Tennessee last week. Josh Allen threw for 263 yards and two more touchdown passes, but the Bills fell by a 42-16 final to the Titans at Nissan Stadium. Ryan Tannehill was responsible for four Tennesee touchdowns (three passing), while Derrick Henry added two more on the ground. Stefon Diggs paced all receivers with 106 yards passing.

Meanwhile, the defending champion Chiefs (4-1) are coming off their first loss since November of last season, as they were dealt a 40-32 loss at home by the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes threw for 340 yards and two scores in defeat, with 108 yards of that tally going to Travis Kelce.

The Series

The Bills currently lead the all-time set by a 26-21-1 tally. Kansas City had won the prior three matchups, but Buffalo broke the streak in their last meeting in November 2017 at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs have not visited Western New York since 2014, when they topped Buffalo in 17-13 fashion. Buffalo is currently 1-0 in their AFC West slate this season, having defeated Las Vegas in Week 4.

History Happens: 1994

Buffalo and Kansas City have seen each other in the postseason three times, with the most recent get-together being the 1993-94 AFC Championship Game. The Bills took the proceedings by a 30-13 final to advance to the list of their four consecutive Super Bowl appearances. They jumped out to an early 20-6 lead after a pair of Thurman Thomas touchdown runs, but the Chiefs narrowed the gap when Dave Kreig (subbing for an injured Joe Montana) led a 90-yard drive that was capped off by Marcus Allen’s one-yard score. In a hat trick that would make the Sabres proud, Thomas capped things off with one more short score, the finishing touches of a day that saw him earn 208 yards of offense.

They Said It

“He just makes stuff work. Throws back across his body which, a high school kid you’re watching it and the coach is telling you, ‘Do not do that.’ But he does it and they complete passes. When guys are covered 50 yards down the field, they have enough speed on that team. He still throws the football and those guys breakaway, and then come down with the football. (It’s) definitely jaw-dropping to see what he’s able to do…You got to know at any given play where the speed guys are. Mahomes is able to get it to them. If I’m back in the middle. If you don’t see me on the TV and I’m 60 yards back, you know why.”-Bills S Micah Hyde on Patrick Mahomes, per Matt Parrino

“He’s a guy I know that I’ll be facing a lot as our careers go on. It’ll be a great challenge and a great opportunity for me to go against that team and him at quarterback.”-Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes on Josh Allen, per Haley Lewis 

Matchup To Watch

Kansas City Speed vs. Buffalo Secondary

The Kansas City area (the Kansas edition, not Missouri) recently welcomed in the NASCAR circuit for playoff action. It might not be anything compared to what we see on the field on Monday night.

Buffalo will not reunite with injured former comrade Sammy Watkins on Monday, but the Chiefs are ready to enjoy the high-speed antics of Mecole Hardman in the meantime. Opponents have seen hints of Hardman’s potential, including an 81-yard performance in Kansas City’s Week 3 win in primetime over Baltimore. There’s already the established group of Tyreek Hill and Demarcus Robinson as well. If any of them get loose, it could be a long late afternoon. In their long-gestating preparation for Kansas City, the Bills have done their due diligence on their renowned tempo. Hyde brought up a play in last week’s tilt with Las Vegas where Hill beat out a well-positioned Erik Harris on a deep-ball that was later called back due to a holding penalty.

“Good ball beats great defense,” he noted, per Mark Gaughan of The Buffalo News. “I want to say Harris was in great position but at the end of the day they came down with the ball. He’s a special talent, the receivers are special talents. You’ve got to be the deepest of the deepest.”

“I’m prepared,” Hardman said of his opportunity, according to Fox 4. “I did it last year when Tyreek (Hill) went down and Sammy went down one time, too. I’m prepared for the challenge. It’s nothing I can’t handle. I’m practicing hard, doing what I can do. Just see what Coach Reid has in store for me, what they want me to do, and just do it the best I can.”

The Bills Will Win If…

They make Mahomes uncomfortable and control the ball.

Cliche as it sounds, making the quarterback uncomfortable is going to be the key to victory in Buffalo. That lesson applies perhaps thirtyfold when the quarterback on the side is Mahomes. There’s a prime opportunity to make him extra uneasy in the pocket on Monday. Kansas City will be missing two starters on the offensive line, which could lead to added pressure from the Buffalo rush.

The Bills’ offense can do their part in neutralizing Mahomes, if only by making sure he stays off the field. Each of Kansas City’s nine losses with Mahomes under center has come when the Chiefs lose the time of possession battle. That trend continued last week when Las Vegas held the ball for 35:18 last Sunday.

The Chiefs Will Win If…

They take advantage of Buffalo on a short week.

The Titans took advantage of their two weeks off last Tuesday in Nashville. Through no fault of their own, the Bills are in a position where they’re playing in a short week. If the powerful Chiefs can take advantage of that, it can get ugly pretty quickly. The key to using speed in victory comes through conditioning, and the Chiefs have the advantage of an eight-day prep period. It’s up to them to use that on Monday.

Prediction

If there’s one thing that’s for sure about this unpredictable season on both sides, it’s that we should probably see offensive explosions galore. While everyone knows that the Chiefs are a known commodity after their Super Bowl trek, the Bills are in a bit of an awkward spot in their 2020 timeline. This is the first time in their period of contention that they’re facing some true adversity after a one-sided loss in Nashville. They previously dealt with a small amount of it after a narrow loss to lowly Cleveland last season, but they quickly shook it off with four consecutive wins to solidify their playoff status.

The Bills have several chances to get back on the right track. Asking to do that against the defending Super Bowl champions on a short week is simply too much to ask for at this rate in time. A win may be a lot to ask for, but if the Bills can hang tough with an established contender that shows no signs of fading anytime soon, they can enter the future, one that hopefully contains more normalcy from a scheduling standpoint, feeling confident with their heads high.

Chiefs 34, Bills 28 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: RB Le’Veon Bell signed by future opponent Kansas City

New York Jets, LeVeon Bell

It didn’t take long for former New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell to find a new home, as the defending champs offered a one-year deal.

Le’Veon Bell’s name was not long for free agency. Less than 48 hours after the New York Jets granted his release, the running back has agreed to a one-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. Though Bell will not be available for Kansas City’s Monday late afternoon tilt against Buffalo on Monday (5 p.m. ET, ESPN), Kansas City is set to take on the Jets on November 1 at Arrowhead Stadium.

Bell commemorated his move by sharing his image photos shopped in Chiefs gear.

Kansas City (4-1) has enjoyed the services of first-round rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire at running back this season (10th in the NFL with 344 yards rushing), but have appeared to add themselves a very solid depth option in Bell. The rusher earned a pair of first-team All-Pro nominations and three Pro Bowl invites during his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2013-17) and ran for 5,336 yards in a black and yellow uniform. He inked a four-year, $52.5 million contract with the Jets after sitting out the entire 2018 campaign due to a contract dispute.

Through a series of alleged misuse and injuries, Bell was never able to regain his elite form with the Jets. He ran for only 789 yards and three scores last season, a full-season career-low. Bell partook in two games this season, partially sidelined by a hamstring injury that led to a stint on the temporary injured reserve. His final Jets showing came in a Week 5 return, when he ran for 60 yards on only 13 carries in a 30-10 defeat to Arizona.

Though the return on Edwards-Helaire has been strong in the early going, the Chiefs have struggled to fill the void left behind by Super Bowl hero Damien Williams, who opted out of the 2020 season. Current reserves Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson have united for 67 yards on 17 carries.

As for the Jets, Bell’s release carries $19 million in a dead money cap hit over the next two seasons, including $15 million this year.

The Jets (0-5) will partake in their first Bell-free game on Sunday late afternoon against the Miami Dolphins (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Should the New York Giants Try To Trade For Chiefs DL Chris Jones?

The New York Giants have arguably one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. General manager Dave Gettleman has made it a priority to build through the trenches. Since becoming the general manager in 2018, Gettleman has invested

But what if this defensive line could get even better? What if Gettleman made one last investment to push the unit over the top? One of the best young defensive linemen in the NFL, Chris Jones, could be a potential blockbuster trade target.

Why would this trade make sense for the Chiefs?

The Kansas City Chiefs and Chris Jones are in the middle of a contract dispute. Chris Jones even threatened to sit out the 2020 NFL season if he does not receive a long-term contract extension. Jones is seeking a deal worth more than $20 million per year.

“[Chris Jones] always viewed himself as a $20 million-plus-per-year guy. The Chiefs, frankly, never did. Even before the whole COVID situation, they never made an offer north of $20 million — felt like they could get him somewhere below that. A lot of work to be done here if there’s going to be a long-term deal for Chris Jones…” – Mike Garafolo of NFL Network

Additionally, the Chiefs have another superstar to pay. You might have heard of him. Patrick Mahomes? Yeah, they have to pay him soon. Showtime Mahomes is the best quarterback in the NFL and he is about to get paid like it. Reports indicate that Mahomes could seek a contract worth more than $40 million per year. It would be tough to pay Mahomes that amount while also paying Chris Jones $20 million. This cap dilemma could lead the Chiefs to trade away Chris Jones.

If the Chiefs were to trade Chris Jones to the New York Giants, receiving Leonard Williams and a draft pick in exchange would make sense for them. Trading away Jones would be a huge loss for this defense. But obtaining Leonard Williams would surely soften the blow. Williams could fit right into Jones’s previous role with the team. He would not perform in that role as well as Jones did, but Williams is still one of the better players in the league at the position. Plus, his contract will be much cheaper than Chris Jones’s.

On top of that, if the Chiefs do not give Williams a long-term deal, they will be eligible to receive a third-round compensatory pick in the next NFL Draft if Williams walks away in the 2021 free agency period.

Why would this trade make sense for the Giants?

In order for this trade to make sense for the New York Giants, they will need to free up some cap space. This offseason, the Giants placed the expensive franchise tag on IDL Leonard Williams. The one-year franchise tag is worth over $16 million in cap space. Williams is seeking a new, long-term contract. That contract will likely be worth around $16 million per year.

If the Giants were to offer a trade for Chris Jones, they should begin by including Leonard Williams in the deal. Leonard Williams is a highly-talented defensive lineman and is arguably top-ten in the league at his position. But Chris Jones is arguably top-two. If the Giants could make that upgrade for a few million more in cap space, they should.

Chris Jones is a legitimate pass-rushing threat from the interior. In 2018, Jones totaled 15.5 sacks and 49 pressures. He followed that up with a 9 sack, 27 pressure performance in 2019. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones ranks third among interior defenders in pass-rushing grade over the past four seasons. He also has recorded 212 pressures in that time span, fourth-most (PFF).

If this hypothetical trade were to come true, the Giants would have to throw in a draft pick. That pick could be the deal-breaker. If it is a high pick, then they should not take the deal. Draft picks are extremely valuable in the first three rounds, especially for a rebuilding team like the Giants. But if they can complete the trade by throwing in a mid-to-late round pick, plus a new $20 million-per-year contract along with Leonard Williams, the Giants would be acquiring one of the NFL’s brightest defensive stars in Chris Jones.

Why would this trade make no sense?

If this trade were to happen, the Chiefs would be losing the best player on their defense. Keeping Chris Jones is going to cost the Chiefs a lot, but he is worth the money. Jones has been one of the most consistent and dominating defensive lineman in the NFL over the past four years. At only 26 years old, the Chiefs would be wise to keep Jones as part of their long-term plans. If they feel like they can afford to pay him, they will.

On the flip side, the Giants might not consider this trade worth it. As stated previously, the extra draft pick is the key. If the trade requires a second-round pick, the Giants should turn the other way. But even if it only requires a fifth-round pick, the Giants might not be interested. The Gmen are a rebuilding team. Cap space is valuable. Maybe they are not the best team to pay a defensive lineman $20 million per year.

Then again, Dave Gettleman does love his hog mollies and Chris Jones is one of the best hog mollies in the NFL. Maybe he will be enticed by a potential trade for the young and dominant Chris Jones. It may be a long shot, but a trade does hypothetically make sense. This could be exactly what the New York Giants need.

New York Giants: Prized free agent pass rusher may be out of reach

New York Giants, Nate Solder, Jon Halapio, Mike Remmers

The New York Giants are in dire need of upgrading their defense and one highly regarded free agent may be too pricey for Big Blue. According to Matt Verderame, the Jacksonville Jaguars are looking to keep talented defensive end Yannick Ngakoue in Duval.  The hope remains that the Jaguars will be able to strike a deal with Ngakoue.  If not, the franchise tag is very well in play.

What does a franchise tag mean for the Giants, Ngakoue?

The deadline for an NFL team to apply a franchise tag is 4:00 PM EST on March 10th.  For Ngakoue, this could mean a $17.95 million deal for the 2020 season.  If the Giants still wanted to offer the young defensive star, they would have to forfeit two first round picks.  A price that is much more than New York will be likely willing to spend.

Of course, Jacksonville also has the ability to apply a transition tag to Yannick.  This would be a cheaper option for Jacksonville ($15.32 million), but would allow other teams to negotiate with Ngakoue without needing to surrender a return.  Jacksonville would still be allowed to match an offer made for Yannick, but the transition tag is so rarely used in the NFL.

It has been documented that Yannick Ngakoue seems to want out of Jacksonville, so a franchise tag could make for a long offseason.  He may intentionally miss OTAs and minicamp if he does not agree.  The Jaguars could then trade Ngakoue, getting draft assets in return.

Frank Clark, Jadeveon Clowney and Dee Ford were all traded after being tagged last season.  The Kansas City Chiefs gave up a first and second round pick for Frank Clark.  Likewise, San Francisco sent a second round pick to Kansas City for Dee Ford.  Seattle seemingly got Jadeveon Clowney for a bargain.  With Clowney being dealt after the July 15th deadline, the Texans received a third round pick, as Seattle had more leverage in negotiations.

The Giants can still land Ngakoue… Technically

So, it is still possible for the New York Giants to acquire Yannick Ngakoue, but the cost may be too rich.  According to Spotrac, Ngakoue’s market value is somewhere between $17 and $18 million per year. However, the requirement of giving up two first round picks is incredibly steep.  Much like trading a first, second or a combination of picks for Ngakoue, giving up valuable draft assets is an unattractive option for a team in the Giants’ position.  Dave Gettleman already received criticism for giving up a third round pick for free agent to be Leonard Williams.  It is unlikely he would be willing to do that again.