NY Jets hope to contain Travis Kelce and the Chiefs tonight

What are some of the things worth keying in on during Sunday Night Football?

NY Jets, Robert Saleh
NY Jets, Robert Saleh / Elsa/GettyImages
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Ugly. Just ugly stuff going on at One Jets Drive this season. I won’t rehash the same impenetrable logic that everyone keeps spewing on every single orifice possible, I’ll just say that 1-5 seems to be inevitable heading into the Week 7 bye. And just like every year, it appears that the biggest culprit is the NY Jets' offense.

The Jets and the Panthers are the only two franchises in the NFL without a 10-touchdown passer in each of the last three seasons. Jets are the only franchise who finished last season without a touchdown in their last three games.

This season, they only have three offensive touchdowns in their three games. That’s tied with the Tennessee Titans for the fewest offensive touchdowns scored in the league.

When we account for points, which include field goals and miscellaneous touchdowns (such as Xavier Gipson’s miraculous MNF game-winning return), the Jets are dead last in points scored (42). The Miami Dolphins average more points per game (43.3) than the Jets have scored all season.

Another year, another last-ranked offense.

Now the whole world is gearing to tune in to count how many times they see Taylor Swift on TV, and throughout that fiasco, the Jets will lose very badly to the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs.

I can’t even imagine what the All-Pro caliber players like Garrett Wilson, Quinnen Williams, and Sauce Gardner are going through, knowing they have a championship-caliber team that literally could go 1-16 due to a personnel error at the game’s most crucial position. Let’s talk about what else is going on:

Oh Say Can Kelce

This spark between T-Swift and T-Kelce will inadvertently shine a much brighter light onto the complete dumpster fire that is the 2023 Jets. So far, they’ve been failing somewhat in silence — far from the primetime slots, and most people only see the lowlights or the horrific stat lines and don’t know how poorly this team is truly playing.

That’s all about to change on Sunday night when the biggest weakness of the 2022 unit gets exploited for all to see under the lights. Starting all the way back in Week 13 of last season, it seemed like teams started to figure out that the Jets didn’t have the personnel to cover tight ends and used that to expose the defense.

In the eight games played since Week 13 last season (Weeks 14-18 last year and Weeks 1-3 this year), the Jets' defense has allowed tight ends to score 100% of the opposing team’s passing touchdowns in five of them.

Of the remaining three, there was the Jacksonville TNF football loss where Evan Engram gashed the defense for 113 yards on seven catches, but the only touchdown scored in that game was a Trevor Lawrence rush.

There was the season finale against the Dolphins, where no touchdowns were scored at all, but Mike Gesicki led the Dolphins in targets (6) and yards (46), and backup tight end Durham Smythe was second in targets (5) and 3rd in yards (39).

Lastly, the season opener was a fairly good showing against my theory, as Stefon Diggs cooked up 10 catches for 102 yards and the lone touchdown, but Dawson Knox was still tied for second in catches, and their rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid was third in catches that game.

So, in the last eight games, tight ends have scored 70% of the touchdowns the Jets have allowed by the opposing offense. In comparison, wide receivers scored 10%, and running backs scored 0% during that time. During this span, a whopping four different backup tight ends have scored on the defense.

And in five of these games, the opposing tight end had the most yards or catches on the team (or both). So, in conclusion, it’s a huge weakness — it was horrible last year and hasn’t improved too much this year.

I can only imagine this will look worse when the Jets face the undisputed best tight end in the league by a considerable margin. Many are starting to call Kelce the best ever, with good reason, and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.

Looking at his production from that same timeline (Week 14, 2022-present), he surprisingly had no touchdowns from Weeks 14-18, but he led the team in catches four out of those five games and in yards two out of those five games.

This year, he has scored a touchdown in 100% of the games he played in, and in this new ‘Taylor Swift Era’ he led his team in catches, yards, and touchdowns.

I am willing to bet the farm he finds the end zone in this game like so many of his fellow tight ends have, and I wouldn’t be shocked for him to be the second one since Evan Engram to get 100+ yards on the Jets since Week 13. If you have Travis Kelce on fantasy, this might be your safest bet all year to play him and know he will have a monster game.

Can They Hackett?

Apart from Zach Wilson himself, Nathaniel Hackett is the man with the best possible chance of helping us avoid this dastardly fate. You can even argue he has a greater chance than Wilson to fix this because it seems like Wilson can’t really change who he is as a player, but Hackett should be able to change the play calling in a way to accentuate Wilson's strengths.

He has done this before — this is the clearest way I can put it: Blake Bortles has 11 career touchdowns and 18 career interceptions without Nathaniel Hackett on his coaching staff and a whopping 92 touchdowns with 57 interceptions with Hackett in the building. Per game, that's 0.69 touchdowns and 1.13 interceptions without and 1.56 touchdowns and 0.97 without.

When Leonard Fournette was added to the mix in 2017, Hackett led them to the league’s best rushing attack, which (combined with one of the league’s best defenses) went to the AFC Championship that year.

Wilson has still never thrown 11 touchdowns in a season, so maybe it was presumptuous of me to assume Hackett could get similar production out of him, Breece Hall, and the Jets’ above-average defense.

An underrated stat to consider is that Wilson threw a touchdown pass in back-to-back games this season already, which is something he only did once all year in 2022. Perhaps Hackett is (very) slowly and steadily getting Wilson to unlock some potential?

A nice realistic goal for this offense would be to stay on the field longer. They are dead last in third-down conversion percentage — in fact, they are so bad in this stat that no team in the league is more than 3.5% lower than the team above them on the list besides the Jets, who are 4.19% away from the 31st-ranked Washington Commanders.

They are also tied for dead last in punts per play, another clear and inarguable sign of the depth of their offensive futility thus far.

Hackett keeps blaming the game script for why talented younger players like Mecole Hardman and Jeremy Ruckert are getting almost no snaps while washed-up players like Randall Cobb and C.J. Uzomah play most of the game.

Can Hackett simply flip the script and start dialing up some sequences that get this team to stay on the field longer? And score? This is a very underrated defense to try against, they haven’t even allowed as many points (39) as we’ve scored (43) so it’s definitely a stingy group. They are fourth in the league in points allowed.

Let’s hope we see some progress here!

Lights, Cameras, Reactions

This one doesn’t have any fancy stats or numbers to break down — this is just a matter of fact. This game is on primetime, and Taylor Swift is bringing an especially large group of viewership to this game.

Last game, we saw players pissed and jawing off on the sideline with coaches and each other. Frustration has settled in for a franchise that was expecting to compete for a Super Bowl this year but is now more likely headed to 1-16 than hoisting the Lombardi in February.

Frustration has undoubtedly set in for a fanbase who was expecting to enjoy their lives in December and January but are now ready to call it quits in September.

I personally believe the most frustrating part is that the mouthpiece of the organization (Robert Saleh) appears to be blatantly lying by saying that Zach Wilson gives the team the best chance to win. That wasn’t true last year, and it certainly isn’t true this year.

Fans at MetLife Stadium were booing him last week. Do we remember when the booing got so bad on Thursday Night Football that he was benched in favor of Chris Streveler, who currently isn’t even on an NFL team? Will we see a repeat of that this Sunday? Will we see more arguments on the sideline?

It will all be magnified on the NFL’s biggest stage, so if either of those things does happen, it will be impossible to slide under the rug or brush aside.

If Wilson were to get pulled mid-game in this one, it’s easy to presume that’s it for his career, but I would’ve thought they pull him after last week’s atrocity. To me, it seems like he will be out there no matter what.

For someone with such admittedly low confidence throughout his NFL career, it’s obvious that getting booed out of your home stadium during another bad performance will not positively affect one’s confidence.

Rodgers called out his teammates for their immaturity and has asked them, the fanbase, and Joe Namath for some patience as they try to get Wilson up to speed with the rest of the team’s aspirations, but time is running out.

Rodgers will also be at the game, where perhaps literally being a voice in Wilson's ear could make a world of difference for the struggling QB.

A lot to digest, but no matter what the tone/mood of the stadium is, we know indisputably it will be magnified and reverberated throughout the enter NFL (and professional sports) world since it’s on primetime. Pray for us!

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