EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The NFL figured it had a marquee made-for-TV matchup when it announced the league’s schedule in May.
Aaron Rodgers’ New York Jets would square off at home against Patrick Mahomes and the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in prime time on Sunday night.
Well, then came quite a plot twist.
Rodgers was lost for the season just four snaps into his debut with the Jets — and now all the hype has shifted off the field, with fans wondering whether Taylor Swift will show up at MetLife Stadium to support Chiefs star tight end Travis Kelce again.
The pop superstar attended Kansas City’s victory over Chicago at home last Sunday, but the All-Pro tight end wouldn’t divulge any details about their relationship. And neither would Mahomes.
“Like Travis said, I’m going to let them have their privacy and keep it moving,” Mahomes said this week.
That’s what the Chiefs (2-1) intend to do when they face a struggling Jets (1-2) team that’s now led by Zach Wilson in place of the injured Rodgers, who’s healing at home in California after having surgery on his torn left Achilles tendon.
Mahomes and the offense appeared in top form last week while romping past the winless Bears. The reigning league MVP threw three touchdown passes, including one to Kelce and two to Jerick McKinnon, while Isiah Pacheco and Clyde Edwards-Helaire added TD runs.
Mahomes, who surpassed 25,000 yards passing last week, has 199 career touchdown passes. If he gets one against the Jets in his first appearance at MetLife Stadium, he would reach 200 in his 84th game — five faster than Dan Marino’s NFL record.
“Patrick Ma-homie? He’s a special talent,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “Some of the throws he makes are disgusting from a defensive perspective, but they’re super talented.”
Andy Reid’s Chiefs rank fifth in overall offense, fifth in passing, 10th in rushing and ninth in scoring.
“Sometimes I wonder if he just draws it in the dirt as the game goes on, with some of the concepts that they have,” a smiling Saleh said of Reid. “But it’s going to be a challenge, for sure.”
Especially with the embattled Wilson under center for at least another week. After a solid showing in the Jets’ season-opening win over Buffalo in overtime, the offense has sputtered. And a lot of it is on Wilson, who has been unable to get anything going — while frustrated fans are calling for him to be benched.
Even Joe Namath went all in this week, saying during a radio show he has seen enough of the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 and suggested wholesale changes to the organization.
Saleh and the Jets have reiterated their confidence in Wilson, but acknowledged he must improve — and fast.
“It’s a long season,” Wilson said after New York’s 15-10 loss to New England last Sunday. “We’re all going to look in the mirror, find out how we can be better and learning and improving. Having that short-term memory, understanding that we lost this week — oh well, we have to learn from this and move on and get better.”
GOOD MEMORY OF A BAD MEMORY
Mahomes remembers just about every interception he has thrown, mostly because there haven’t been many.
And when it gets returned for a touchdown? Those really stand out, even if they happened in college.
So it was easy for him to recount D.J. Reed’s pick-6 against him on Oct. 8, 2016 — when Mahomes was playing for Texas Tech and Reed for Kansas State.
“That’s stuff you really have to be aware of when you play quarterback,” said Mahomes, who’ll see Reed on the opposite side again Sunday night. “I think he was supposed to get blocked by a receiver and jumped it and got to the house.”
Reed’s Wildcats won 44-38.
“Just from watching the tape back then I knew he was going to be special,” the Jets cornerback said. “He’s a generational quarterback with his off-rhythm throws.”
The Jets’ struggles on offense could be largely attributed to what they’ve done — or haven’t done — on third down.
New York was 1 for 10 in those situations against Dallas in Week 2 and 2 for 14 last Sunday against New England. For the season, the Jets are 8 for 37, a 22% conversion rate that ranks them last in the NFL.
“It’s all of us,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “I think that we put our entire offense into some really bad situations. Doesn’t matter who’s back there at quarterback, who’s playing, when you’re behind the sticks, when you’re third-and-extra-long continuously, it’s not going to be good, and we have to be better.”
Rarely does Reid criticize officials, but he doubled down on his critique of them after last week’s rout of Chicago, during which they continued to penalize Chiefs right tackle Jawaan Taylor.
Taylor had been thrust into the spotlight after Week 1 when he appeared to continually line up too deep in the backfield, and was flagged five times for various infractions the following week. Yet replays showed that Taylor lined up no deeper than any other offensive tackle in the league last week, leading Reid to conclude Taylor was being picked on.
“They got their point proved,” he said. “Now let’s make sure we’re staying consistent.”