By Matt Citak
The Kansas City Chiefs enter their Week 13 matchup as losers of five of their last six games. It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Chiefs. Their 5-0 start had many around the league considering them Super Bowl contenders, but it’s been almost all downhill since their Week 5 victory over the Houston Texans. The Chiefs, who were one of the highest-scoring teams in the NFL through five weeks, have struggled to put up points over the last month and a half. The team has scored more than 17 points in just two of their last six games, and cannot seem to get anything going.
The Chiefs, who held a comfortable lead in the AFC West throughout most of the first three months of the season, now own just a one-game lead over both the Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders with five games remaining. Kansas City will welcome both division rivals to Arrowhead Stadium in the coming weeks, with the Raiders coming to town next Sunday and the Chargers in Week 15. Despite their recent struggles, the Chiefs can still clinch a spot in the postseason if they take care of business over the next five games, starting this Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the New York Jets.
The Jets have also lost five of their last six contests, but find themselves in a very different situation than the Chiefs. New York was not supposed to compete this season, which made their 3-2 start even more impressive. And while they have been on the losing side of almost all of their games over the last six weeks, they’ve battled until the very end in each matchup. The Jets have not lost by more than one possession since the team’s 45-20 defeat to the Raiders all the way back in Week 2. The Jets are 4-7 and most likely out of the playoff race, but you would never know it from the effort they give for head coach Todd Bowles week in and week out.
NFL ON CBS play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle weighed in on this week’s Chiefs-Jets matchup, which he will be calling alongside analyst Dan Fouts and sideline reporter Evan Washburn, as well as other upcoming NFL ON CBS action in Week 13.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. New York Jets – 1:00 PM ET Sunday – CBS
CBS Local Sports: After beginning the season 5-0, the Chiefs have now lost five of their last six games and have seen their division lead shrink to just one game. What does Kansas City need to do to prevent their season from completely going off the rails?
Ian Eagle: It’s head-scratching. Their offense was so dynamic in the first five weeks. Everything clicked. [They had] big plays and downfield fireworks. But in the last six weeks, it’s looked broken. The running game has been nonexistent. [They’ve thrown] a lot of check-downs in their passing game. Kareem Hunt was a revelation. Now he looks like a rookie. And Alex Smith is under heavy scrutiny. He was having the best season of his career. They’ve had no answers. They’ve looked pedestrian, and they’re not tricking anybody on offense. The simple answer is try to rediscover the magic that they had in the first month-and-a-half of the year. But teams have figured them out. They may have to come up with “Plan C” here.
CBS Local Sports: The Jets have also lost five of their last six games, but have shown a lot of fight, as the final score in each of those losses was within one possession. What does the toughness and effort this Jets team shows each and every week throughout the season say about Todd Bowles and his coaching staff?
Ian Eagle: It bodes well for the head coach that they’ve played hard and competed every week. The expectations were so low coming into the season. But it brings up the internal debate — Todd Bowles is coaching for his job. Because of that scenario, he’s going to stick with Josh McCown. McCown gives him the best chance to win. Bowles is not interested in seeing what the young quarterbacks can do. That’s part of an internal question that each organization has to answer. Trying to strike the right balance [between winning now and playing for the future]. Christian Hackenberg has been active for one game in his career. At this stage, the coach is trying to win as many games as possible so he can continue into 2018.
New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills – 1:00 PM ET Sunday – CBS
CBS Local Sports: With the offense firing on all cylinders and the defense looking a lot stronger than they did towards the beginning of the season, do you see any glaring weaknesses on this Patriots team?
Ian Eagle: I don’t [see any glaring weaknesses]. This team has been the best second-half team in the NFL since Tom Brady became the starting quarterback. November and December is their time. They get better as the year goes on. They figure out what their problems are, and they fix them. That’s the sign of excellent coaches, teachers, and players that want to be coached. What has stood out with New England is Brandin Cooks has brought a different element to this team — a bonafide deep-threat. He and Tom Brady have developed instant chemistry. Every game, somebody else seems to step forward at the running back position. That’s why they are so difficult to scout. One game it’s Dion Lewis. The next game it’s Rex Burkhead. Then it’s James White. And they have figured out their defensive issues. It doesn’t mean they are a finished product, but it’s no longer a glaring weakness, like we saw through the first month of the year.
CBS Local Sports: It won’t be easy with two of their final five games against the Patriots, but what will the Bills need to do in order to end their 17-year playoff drought?
Ian Eagle: It’s the longest playoff drought in sports. It’s hard to believe [that] 1999 is the last year the Bills made the postseason. If Tyrod Taylor’s future is not in Buffalo, this stretch run can still be important for him in convincing other teams that he is a viable, winning, starting quarterback. These games mean a lot for the team. It seems like with the new coaches and new management in Buffalo, they would like to go in a different direction down the road. But Taylor has the belief of his teammates. We saw it last week, as they rallied around him, and the Bills had a strong effort. They can still sneak in [to the postseason]. With the way things are set up in the AFC, it’s such a logjam that Buffalo still has a chance to make a run.
Matt Citak is a producer for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter or send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.