Patrick Mahomes will lead reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City into MetLife Stadium on Sunday night, and he won’t even be the most famous person there. Taylor Swift has him beat.
Travis Kelce’s new friend is expected to be in attendance. Swift’s presence could take some of the focus away from Zach Wilson, who has been lambasted for his poor play.
Wilson is going to have to Shake It Off for the Jets to have any chance of upsetting Kansas City. (Sorry in advance for Swift song puns).
He is the Anti-Hero for Jets fans and legendary quarterback Joe Namath. Wilson’s message to them could be You Need to Calm Down. Instead, he’s asking them to believe that he and the Jets will improve.
“We’re doing everything we can,” Wilson said. “We want to get this thing going just as bad as they want to. We’re doing everything we can to get it going.”
This is a huge moment for Wilson and the Jets, who may have a familiar face watching from a suite. There have been rumblings that Aaron Rodgers could attend this game.
Rodgers tore his left Achilles tendon four offensive snaps into the Jets’ season. What a Cruel Summer for the Jets. After all the hype and hope, Rodgers’ injury was devastating to the organization and the fan base.
The Jets (1-2) have lost their last two games. Their offense is the worst in the NFL in so many metrics: total yards, passing yards, quarterback rating, third-down conversions and time of possession.
Wilson has led three touchdown drives in the three games. In the Jets’ last 19 series, 10 have ended three-and-out, four in turnovers, one in a safety and one in a touchdown.
Maybe if Rodgers — a noted Swiftie — is there and has a headset in his suite, he can help put Wilson in better position to succeed against the NFL’s sixth-ranked defense.
It’s going to be critical for the Jets to sustain drives. Their best chance of keeping the game close will be to keep the ball out of Mahomes’ hands as much as possible.
Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said the offense’s “No. 1 focus” this week has been being better on first and second downs to put Wilson in third-and-manageable situations.
“If we play like we did these last two weeks, Mahomes ain’t going to wait,” Garrett Wilson said. “He’s going to go out there and score the ball. We’ve got to match. That’s been our mindset all week: Let’s put it on us.”
Kansas City can put together long drives or strike quickly with Mahomes, the reigning NFL MVP. The Jets’ defense has been one of the best in the league dating to last season and has faced some great quarterbacks, but Mahomes is on another level.
Not to throw salt in the wound, but the Jets had a chance to draft Mahomes in 2017. He was taken 10th, four spots after the Jets chose safety Jamal Adams.
“Pat Mahomes, in my opinion, is the best quarterback in the league,” said cornerback D.J. Reed, who had a pick-6 on Mahomes in college. “He’s a unicorn. He’s a one-of-a-kind quarterback.”
The way the Jets’ offense has performed, it definitely puts more stress on the defense, which has faced a league-high 73.3 plays per game.
The Jets gave up one big scoring play to the Patriots last week and shut them out in the second half of a 15-10 loss. But they’ve said they don’t feel any pressure to try to shut down teams because of the offensive struggles. That’s always their goal.
Containing Mahomes and Kelce is a major challenge for all defenses. Their connection has been epic. The Jets could try to use Sauce Gardner on Kelce some. They did that in Week 1 last year against Baltimore’s Mark Andrews.
Saleh said “everything is on the table” but noted that Kansas City is “loaded” and has “great receivers” that need to be covered. Kansas City also has an improved offensive line — Mahomes has been sacked only once — and running game, led by second-year back Isiah Pacheco.
“It is an awesome challenge, a tremendous challenge in every way,” Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said.
Ulbrich played Kansas City when he coached Atlanta in 2020 and has seen a change since Tyreek Hill went to Miami.
“They were definitely a pass-first team,” Ulbrich said. “They were definitely going to pass until they couldn’t, and you always kind of approach those games with the mindset that if they run for over a hundred [yards], beautiful. That was kind of the direction you want to steer them
“Now with Isiah Pacheco, the run game, the offensive line, they threaten you in every way.”
Wilson isn’t the only one who has to elevate his game on Sunday night, but the Jets definitely need him to — and Swift-ly.