Chiefs, Jets not playing the game they expected

By Mike Ash  |   Thursday, December 27, 2007  |  Comments( 4 )

Kansas City Chiefs
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When the NFL released the 2007 schedule several months ago, the Week 17 battle between the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets seemed like a compelling matchup. Because the Chiefs and Jets had earned the AFC's wild-card spots last season, it seemed possible that the game could determine which of the two teams would make a return trip to the playoffs.

Then there was the added intrigue of Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards returning to New York, where he coached the Jets from 2001-2005. The game seemed like a sure winner. It was even positioned in the league's Sunday night slot, giving it national television exposure on NBC.

Of course, with the game mere days away, none of the early speculation has proven true. With only seven combined wins between them, both the Chiefs and Jets are mired in lousy seasons. The league's flex scheduling has moved the game to Sunday afternoon to provide NBC with a more attractive contest. And instead of battling for a playoff spot, the teams will instead be competing for a top-five pick in the 2008 draft.

The Chiefs are currently slated to pick fifth in next year's draft, moving up two spots after their loss to the Detroit Lions. Their 4-11 record has them tied with two other teams, the Oakland Raiders and the Baltimore Ravens, but Kansas City currently has a minuscule edge with its strength of schedule.

Draft order is determined by a team's win/loss record, with tiebreakers going to the team that has played the weakest competition. If teams have an identical strength of schedule, a more complicated series of tiebreakers comes into play. The 3-12 Jets currently have the No. 3 pick, but a win over Kansas City on Sunday would likely drop them behind the Chiefs, Raiders and Ravens in the draft order.

Should the Chiefs beat the Jets, they would fall back as well, but they would ultimately pick no worse than the eighth spot next year. If they lose Sunday, though, they would actually have an outside shot at the No. 2 overall pick. It would require St. Louis and Atlanta - the other teams at 3-12 - winning their final games and then a specific series of results in the rest of the games across the league. If the chips fell correctly, Kansas City could end up with the lowest strength of schedule among the 4-12 teams, giving it the draft's second pick.

That scenario is extremely unlikely, though, and a loss to the Jets would most likely give the Chiefs the fourth or fifth pick. Thanks to having a strength of schedule so close to that of the Raiders, it's possible - even likely - that Oakland could leapfrog the Chiefs in the draft order and take the No. 4 spot, assuming the Raiders also lose their final game.

But none of this matters to Kansas City's players, of course. The Chiefs are looking to win their final game and enter the offseason on a positive note. QB Brodie Croyle is expected to start after injuring his hand against the Lions, and not only would the team love to get him his first NFL victory, but it may have some added motivation in getting its coach a win over his former team.

But a similar situation exists on the other sideline. Should Jets coach Eric Mangini lose this week, he'll finish with a 3-13 record, a worse season than Edwards ever had in New York. Reaching such a lowpoint in just his second year would be bad enough for Mangini, but finalizing that feat with a loss to the team's previous coach would be something of a double-whammy. It remains to be seen, though, whether that motivation will trickle down to Mangini's players, many of whom are left over from Edwards' days and have nothing but praise for their old coach.

Whatever happens on Sunday, it's certainly not the game that either team was planning to play when the season started. One team will head into the offseason with a rare win, the other will solidify a top-five draft pick, and both will be hoping for better things in 2008.
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