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NFL Preview - Kansas City (1-5) at N.Y. Jets (3-3)



By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - Revved-up football players will be easy to find this weekend in New Jersey.

Good ones...well, that could be another story.

The Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets will tangle amid the Manhattan shadows in East Rutherford on Sunday afternoon, with each team hitting the field behind a man known as much for pre-game fire and brimstone as for converting that enthusiasm into success once the whistle blows.

The Chiefs invade the swamps under the guidance of Herman Edwards, who's managed all of 14 wins in 38 games since controversially bolting the Jets' flock at the end of 2005 - following a 39-41 run over 80 games and five seasons with Gang Green.

The teams agreed to a deal that precluded any tampering charges being filed against Kansas City, in which the Chiefs gave the Jets a fourth-round selection in the 2006 draft that was eventually used to select running back Leon Washington.

Of course, more so than any of the 53 regular-season victories or two more he's gotten in six combined playoff starts, the erstwhile Edwards is still recognized as much as anything else for the 2002 speech he delivered in response to a reporter's question after an ugly Week 8 loss at Cleveland:

"This is what's great about sports. This is what the greatest thing about sports is. You play to win the game. Hello? You play to win the game. You don't play it to just play it," he said.

"That's the great thing about sports: you play to win, and I don't care if you don't have any wins. You go play to win. When you start tellin' me it doesn't matter, then retire. Get out! 'Cause it matters."

Oh, just in case it matters, too... the Chiefs are 1-5 in 2008, last in the AFC West, and have scored 90 fewer points than they've allowed through six games.

Meanwhile, following his dubious departure, Edwards was replaced by comparative novice Eric Mangini, who picked up the tattered pieces in 2006 and assembled a 10-6 playoff team that got signature motivation each week from classic boxing videos he'd show on Saturday nights before games.

Noted fight trainer Teddy Atlas was occasionally brought in both to speak about preparation as well as work with the team on training that would aid in football pursuits - an approach that served Mangini well through the first- season honeymoon en route to a gutty postseason loss at New England.

Since then, however, the Jets have won just seven times in 22 games, including an embarrassing 16-13 overtime defeat at previously 1-4 Oakland last week that pushed Brett Favre & Co. back to third place in the AFC East, two games in back of the 5-1 Buffalo Bills and a single game behind the perennial division powerhouse Patriots.

Ominously, Favre was reported to have aggravated an injured throwing shoulder in Oakland, against whom only two of his 34 pass attempts traveled more than 20 yards in the air. The Daily News said one play in particular was "vaguely reminiscent" of one that cost Chad Pennington a torn rotator cuff.

"If the loss to Oakland was devastating, then a defeat at home to Herm Edwards this weekend would be fatal," New York Daily News columnist Filip Bondy said Monday.

"The Jets need to make hay against these rotten teams, the same way that the Giants have padded their record against a series of early-season patsies. If the Jets travel to Buffalo on Nov. 2 with a 3-4 mark - facing New England, Tennessee and Denver on the near horizon - all hope is lost."

Rah rah rah.

SERIES HISTORY

The Chiefs have a 16-15-1 edge in the all-time regular season series with the Jets, but were 13-10 overtime losers when the teams met at the Meadowlands in Week 17 of last season. Kansas City won the previous meeting, taking a 27-7 home decision in Week 1 of the 2005 season. The Chiefs last beat the Jets at the Meadowlands in 2002.

The Chiefs and Jets have also met twice in the playoffs, with New York earning a 35-15 home victory in a 1985 AFC First-Round Playoff and the Chiefs winning a 13-6 road decision in a 1969 Inter-Divisional Playoff.

Edwards is 0-1 against the team that he guided from 2001 through 2005, while the Jets' Eric Mangini is 1-0 against Kansas City and his predecessor Edwards.

WHEN THE CHIEFS HAVE THE BALL

Most notably, Kansas City will be without the services of workhorse running back Larry Johnson, who was listed as inactive for the week by the team after a recent off-the-field incident. Johnson leads the team with 417 yards on 93 carries and four touchdowns and had gone for 110 yards and two scores in his lone meeting with the Jets. His absence will heap the pressure onto whomever Edwards declares as his starting QB in the void left by a season-ending injury to Brodie Croyle. Banged-up veteran Damon Huard (hand) has completed 50 passes for 877 yards in his appearances this season, while youngster Tyler Thigpen recorded the first rushing touchdown of his career in a 34-10 loss to Tennessee last week. Either man figures to lean heavily on tight end Tony Gonzalez, who caught six balls for 97 yards against the Titans and extended a consecutive-game reception streak to 121 - second-best in league history for tight ends. Elsewhere, wideout Dwayne Bowe seeks a fourth straight game with at least five catches. He enters the week leading the team with 34 catches for 410 yards.

The Jets hope for a return to the rushing stinginess that allowed them to crack the league's top five through their initial five games before being gashed by Fargas and McFadden in Oakland. Overall, New York is surrendering an average of 312.8 yards per game, compared to the 257.3 yards the Chiefs have been able to generate each week. Pressure and turnovers continue to be important to the Jets' success as well, with defensive end Shaun Ellis looking for a fourth straight game with at least one sack. He leads the team with five. Offseason acquisition Calvin Pace has at least one sack in two of his last three games as well. New York has registered five or more sacks as a team in two straight home games. In the backfield, youngster Darrelle Revis leads the team and is third in the AFC with three interceptions.

WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL

Much will depend on Favre's true level of arm/shoulder health, both this week and for the rest of the season. As mentioned previously, the New York media has reported the 39-year-old is injured, while others blame the conservative play-calling of Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for the lack of Favre-like punch in the offense. In three games at the Meadowlands this season, Favre has completed 67-of-93 passes for 659 yards with eight TDs and a 102.4 passer rating. In his career, his teams are 85-8 when he posts a 100+ passer rating. Running back Thomas Jones continued his resurgence last week with 159 yards, and can become the first Jet back since 2004 to go for 100 in two straight weeks. He averages 130 yards when he has 20 or more attempts. Among the pass-catchers, Laveranues Coles aims for a third consecutive home game with at least eight catches. He's averaged 91 receiving yards in his last two games against the Chiefs. Jerricho Cotchery caught eight balls for 76 yards in his last matchup with Kansas City, while tight end Chris Baker posted a career-best 124 yards and a TD on seven catches against the Chiefs in 2005.

Stopping teams has been a problem for the Chiefs, who've been ripped for 402.2 yards per week through six games and have given up point totals including 38, 34 and 34 in their last three losses, in addition to 17 and 23 in their other two defeats. The defense's shining moment of 2008 came in Week 4, when it surrendered "only" 19 in a 33-19 pasting of the Broncos. In two-plus seasons under Edwards, the Chiefs are 5-1 when opponents score 10 or fewer points. Among the leaders, linebacker Donnie Edwards paces all active players at his position with 28 career interceptions. Three players have recorded one INT each for Kansas City this season. Linebacker Derrick Johnson leads the team through six games with 1? sacks. The development of rookies may hold the immediate key to any K.C. success with six first-year players starting at least one game so far on defense. Tackle Glenn Dorsey, the fifth pick in the 2008 draft, has 22 tackles and one forced fumble. Cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr are settling in as starters - with Carr registering 30 tackles, one interception and two fumble recoveries, while Flowers has 28 tackles and a fumble recovery.

FANTASY FOCUS

Anything related to the Jet offense would seem to be a good play for this week against a battered foe. However, if Favre's injury is legitimate and Coles is at all hampered by head and thigh issues that limited him in practice on Wednesday, then more of the focus goes to Jones and the ground game. Meanwhile, without Johnson, Gonzalez becomes the only approachable commodity for Kansas City. Defensively, the Jets would figure to be a decent gamble as well, with playmakers like Revis, Ellis and Pace figuring to force and/or capitalize on mistakes. The Chiefs, though they may be motivated for their coach this week, are not a wise option.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

It's a familiar refrain...the Jets are better and have more to play for, so they should win. However, that was surely the case last week and it resulted in a disappointing loss to an inferior opponent, while simultaneously sliding the team back in the divisional playoff pecking order during a year in which it seemed theirs for the taking. Simply put, this is another of those barometer games for Mangini & Co. where a win is essential. As Bondy put it, heading in to Buffalo with a 3-4 record would essentially cede the season to the Bills and the still-surviving Patriots. Defeating the Chiefs is hardly a statement for a long-term contract extension for the coach, but it's mandatory if the one-year Favre experiment is going to have any chance at even moderate success.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Jets 30, Chiefs 17

10/23 11:59:59 ET

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