With both the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs are sitting at 1-1 on the season, this game takes on a pretty important look. The Chiefs and Jets could very well be vying for the same wild card spot come December, which means a loss here might be the difference between heading to the playoffs and watching from the couch.
There are a lot of critical factors for the Jets on Sunday—Brandon Marshall could be out, Matt Forte is on an unsustainable pace for 472 carries this season and Revis Island, as ESPN NY Radio Host Rick DiPietro put it, looks more like Hedonism—it’s where everyone comes to score.
All that being said, the most critical piece to this game will come down to one simple thing—turnovers.
The Jets have been pretty good on that front this season, with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing one interception and losing one fumble. Meanwhile, the defense has generated two interceptions on their end (both by cornerback Marcus Williams).
That gives the Jets a turnover differential of 0, which isn’t a bad place to be early in the season.
On the other hand, the Chiefs have struggled a little bit more, with quarterback Alex Smith throwing one interception just like Fitzpatrick. The difference is that the Chiefs have had three lost fumbles, giving them a turnover differential of -2.
Winning the turnover battle is critical in this game, which is otherwise evenly matched. Both teams have solid defensive units, both have good ground games and both have solid—though somewhat limited—passing games.
So whichever team can manage to get more turnovers will win.
Simple and straightforward on paper, if not as much in practice.
While they are at a negative turnover differential right now, the Chiefs are an opportunistic defense, last year ending up at a differential of +14. Cornerback Marcus Peters is especially dangerous, as he is a ball hawk who aggressively goes after passes.
This could become more of a factor if Brandon Marshall is out, or on a limited snap count. Marshall is your aggressive, big bodied receiver who will effectively battle Peters if need be and come out on top. That’s not to say Eric Decker or Quincy Enunwa can’t do that—they just aren’t as effective.
Fitzpatrick is going to have to be very careful with the ball on Sunday, something that is not always his forte. A bit of a gunslinger, but lacking the velocity to get away with it a ton, Fitzpatrick tends to like to throw passes he shouldn’t. He’s going to have to be more reserved on Sunday.
On the other side of things, the Jets need to find ways to get the ball away from the Chiefs offense. Whenever they hit Smith or a running back in the backfield, they need to be ripping away at the ball and trying to force a fumble.
When it’s a pass play, the defensive front has to be in Smith’s face, forcing bad and hurried throws.
This is definitely an area they can excel at. The Jets are tied for fourth in the NFL with seven sacks, while the Chiefs have allowed Smith to be sacked seven times, tied for third in the NFL.
Get after Smith and you will have ample chance to generate some turnovers by making him speed up his delivery and limiting the time his receivers have to finish their routes.
The Jets are in a position to really make a statement in a venue they haven’t won at since 1998. Getting the ball away from the Chiefs offense and making sure they protect it when they have it themselves is going to be the difference this time out.