By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) – As if things could get worse for the New York Jets.
Not only are Rex Ryan and Co. already irrelevant in the standings at the
season’s halfway point and in the middle of one of their semi-annual
quarterback controversies, they’ll visit a Kansas City Chiefs team
this Sunday that seems ideally suited to whatever they might arrive with.
Backup signal-caller Michael Vick makes his first start since his days with
the Philadelphia Eagles against the league’s top-rated pass defense, third
overall defense and third overall scoring defense.
Kansas City enters the weekend having won two straight games, defeating San
Diego and St. Louis while allowing just 451 total yards. The Chiefs registered
seven sacks in a point 27-point home defeat of the Rams on Sunday, and the
Jets arrive toting a league-worst turnover margin (minus-15) and No. 28
rankings in both total offense (319.4 yards per week) and scoring offense (18
points per week).
New York will gets its first full-game look at the tandem of Vick and Percy
Harvin, who caught three passes and carried four times in a 20-point loss to
Buffalo last week, but that won’t be of significant help to a battered
defensive unit that’s allowed 30.6 points per week in a seven-game losing
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith sprained his right shoulder against the Rams,
but stayed in and finished with 226 pass yards. He sustained no structural
damage and is probable for the weekend.
“He’s upbeat about it and we did all of the precautionary things looking at
it,” Kansas City coach Andy Reid said, “so just need a little time to get the
soreness out of there.”
His load is lightened thanks to the presence of the running duo of Jamaal
Charles and Knile Davis, who combined for 122 yards and three scores against
St. Louis. The Chiefs are best in the AFC with 140.7 ground yards per game,
though stopping the run is one of things the Jets do with some success –
surrendering 85.4 yards per game and 3.3 yards per attempt.
In his last six games, Charles has averaged five yards per game and scored six
Still, it’s no understatement to suggest the headline-grabbing matchup is
As fate would have it, Vick’s return to the starting lineup comes against the
very same man – Reid – who famously gave him a second chance with the Eagles
in 2009, following a two-year prison stint.
In three subsequent seasons with Philadelphia, he had 8,683 yards with 51
touchdowns, 30 interceptions and a 6.7-yard per-carry average – including a
comeback player of the year nod in 2010.
He maintained his starting role under Reid until the coach was fired following
a 4-12 season in 2012.
“I love Andy Reid for the man that he is,” said Vick, whose last start came in
Week 8 last season. “As far as the football game, football is football. I just
want to go out there and do what’s best for the team and hopefully try to get
a win. It’s kind of ironic. Would I have wanted it that way? Honestly, no.”
A loss for the Jets would yield their first eight-game skid since the first
half of 1996’s 1-15 debacle.
“I liked him better when he was in my world with the same helmet and team
because he’s a good football player,” Reid said.
Vick relieved embattled starter Geno Smith in the loss to the Bills after the
youngster threw three interceptions in the first quarter. The older man wasn’t
exactly spectacular while completing 18 of 36 passes for 153 yards and an
interception – in addition to 69 rushing yards – but he gets the lesser-of-
two-evils vote from equally embattled coach Rex Ryan.
To say Ryan’s job security is non-existent would be an understatement.
“My focus is just on Kansas City and trying to find a way to get a win,” he
said. “That’s why this decision was made.”
Vick also relieved Smith in a Week 5 loss to San Diego and was 8-for-19 for 47
yards, then conceded afterward that he’d been unprepared to play.
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “Any time you get named to be the
starter, in any profession, in professional sports, it’s a great thing. You
have to relish it, but also at the same time take it extremely serious and
understand what’s at stake and what needs to be done.”
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Hey, Don’t I Know You?
Not only is Vick’s meeting with his former coach an opportunity for two old
friends to get together, it also provides a chance for the ex-Eagles boss to
share an extensive dossier of QB-centric knowledge with his current staff –
which, ironically, includes former Jets assistant Bob Sutton, now the Chiefs
defensive coordinator. Of note, Vick lost two fumbles and was picked off once
in the relief stint against Buffalo.
Can Anyone Here Run This Ball?
For all their faults, the Jets may have a fertile matchup on the ground
against a Chiefs defense that’s surrendered 4.7 yards per attempt. That
obviously could mean more opportunities for Harvin as he grows more accustomed
to the offense.
On the flip side, Charles has 340 in his last three games but faces a stout
task in the New York rush defense that gave up only 67 ground yards last week.
Maybe Ryan will give the speech of his life and rev a 1-7 team. Maybe seeing
Reid again will convince Vick that it’s 2010. And maybe the Jets will bottle
up Charles enough to keep Kansas City in check.
Or, maybe the 20-point loss to Buffalo and Vick’s less-than-stellar play in
two previous auditions are indicative of a franchise whose disarray surface is
just being scratched. Three words: Assume the latter.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Chiefs 27, Jets 10