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Know the KC Chiefs' Week 4 Opponent: Key Facts About the New York Jets

The Jets' first Sunday night showdown in 12 years comes against the defending champion Chiefs. What matters ahead of the Week 4 duel?

When the New York Jets take their shot at the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4, it’ll mark their first appearance on NBC’s Sunday Night Football since 2011.

History hasn’t been particularly kind to them in under-the-lights prime-time games over that span; the tally reads 24 games, a 7-17 record, one legendary “Butt Fumble” and 14 different starting quarterbacks.

To the Jets' credit, they own a pristine prime-time record this year, but while “butt fumbles” may be a thing of the past, there remains both finger-pointing and the occasional loss of teeth.

No, really.

Cue a date with Patrick Mahomes and a suddenly elite Chiefs' defense, entering as nine-point favorites. Here’s what matters ahead of Sunday night.

The Jets' slow "lift-off"

The blueprint to defeating the Jets is so conspicuous, that we’ve seen three different teams utilize it already. It’s also one that the Chiefs — a historically proficient first-quarter team — could easily replicate: get ahead on the scoreboard early and force the Jets’ chances to lie on Zach Wilson’s shoulders.

Sunday’s game kicks off at 8:15 p.m. ET. If recent trends hold up, New York’s offense won’t be arriving until somewhere around, say, 8:45. To illustrate: Wilson has thrown 84 passes this season, with 80 of those coming when New York trails.

In just 2023 alone, the Jets have trailed 13-3 in Week 1, 10-0 in Week 2 and 10-0 in Week 3. Despite immensely talented skill position players, they’ve mustered 5.3 points per game over first halves, the NFL’s second-worst. Kansas City (18.3), in comparison, ranks second. Which prompts a follow-up...

Here comes the punter

One preeminent reason for the Jets’ slow starts? An inability to stay ahead of schedule on early downs and, consequently, struggles on third down:

Of New York’s last 24 third downs, 21 of them have ended conversion-less. They own the league’s lowest success rate (21.6%), numbers that get infinitely more puzzling. Of their 38 third-down attempts:

  • 15 have been third-and-long (10+)
  • On third-and-5 or less, they’re just 5-of-18

Kansas City has leaped to fifth-best in this area in 2023. Should Steve Spagnuolo play his cards right with the early-down guessing game, they could keep the Jets at arm's length.

The special teams battle

Despite offensive struggles and the defense losing ground on its goal of being NFL history’s best, the Jets’ special teams unit has been, by some measures, top-shelf.

Sporting an 11.4% DVOA — the only team above six percent — they roster an elite punter in Thomas Morstead, the only returner with 100-plus punt and kickoff return yards (Week 1 hero Xavier Gipson) and a former Pro Bowl kicker in Greg Zuerlein, a perfect six-of-six in 2023.

The field position battle, if the Jets read this article and shore up their third-down issues, could be one to watch. Fittingly, Robert Saleh, a defensive-minded coach, used that very reason to vouch for Wilson’s statistically ugly Week 3. Pinning the Chiefs deep in their own territory at MetLife Stadium might be one of the few ways they provide themselves a chance.

And now, for a few subtle keys.

Spags’ perfect storm

The beauty of football is that even when statistics and trends line up, there’s always the off-chance of unpredictability. But if Sunday’s game has any normalcy, here’s one math equation that could be in play in Week 4: Wilson’s NFL-high throw time (3.22 seconds) + the Chiefs’ sixth-highest rank in blitz rate (35.7%) and QB hurry rate (14.8%) = two different shades of green on Wilson’s jersey by game’s end.

The rap on Wilson — the slow processor and pressure struggles — are well-documented. In analyzing nearly a dozen of Wilson’s missed opportunities in the 15-10 loss, Jets X-Factor’s Michael Nania highlighted how Belichick and the Patriots stymied Wilson, something the Chiefs could replicate.

On a crucial third-and-6, the Patriots got creative, looping Josh Uche across the formation on a blitz up the A-gap from a Wide 9 alignment. Wilson saw pressure on 41% of his dropbacks, a number unlikely to drop after Kansas City’s success against Chicago, mugging the A-gap, blitzing Justin Fields on nine of his 22 dropbacks, etc.

The wrong kind of “jet motion”

No, this isn’t a shoutout to former Super Bowl champion Chiefs receiver Mecole Hardman; it’s a point to the many moving parts surrounding the injury-ravaged Jets offensive line.

In Week 3, they had Joe Tippmann making his first-ever start — to which the early returns were solid — Mekhi Becton’s granted wish of returning back to left tackle, and Alijah Vera-Tucker shifting from right guard to tackle. Statistically, they won’t get their just due, with Wilson’s indecisiveness, loaded boxes and just 1.7 yards per carry.

Like most things, the Jets’ line newness could be exploited should Kansas City get a cleaner bill of health. Chris Jones only played in 16% of the snaps in Week 3, nursing a groin injury, and Nick Bolton has yet to return. The trench battle holds quite the storyline.

Taking swift action

There may not be a more popular, current sports-to-music connection quite like the one featuring Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift. Motivated to put on a show, the future Hall of Fame tight end turned in a seven-catch, 69-yard, one-touchdown outing; opportunities could be even more plentiful under Week 4’s bright lights.

A perennial issue in their otherwise formidable defense, the Jets were one of only four teams to allow 90-plus catches and 1,000-plus yards to the position in 2022. In 2023, they’ve allowed the fifth-most yards (169) and most touchdowns (3).

Through film, the Jets could get these types of mistakes adjusted; it’s a mere busted coverage where the deep third wasn’t occupied.

It could also be “death by a thousand cuts” over the middle for them on Sunday. The Jets rank No. 24 in EPA per dropback allowed in 2023. Pending a clash against Kelce, you could maybe describe them through a Taylor Swift lyric: they might be “okay,” but they’re not fine at all.

Score Prediction: Chiefs 27, Jets 13