Eyes on Clemens

It took heavy negotiating for the Kansas City Chiefs to secure Herman Edwards' rights from the New York Jets with a fourth-round draft pick. These teams didn't expect to be jostling for position near the top of next April's draft.

Edwards will face the Jets for the first time since being pried away by the Chiefs when the teams conclude their disappointing seasons at the Meadowlands on Sunday.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made New York –6.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game, the over/under has been set at 34 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 56% of bets for this game have been placed on Kansas City +6.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

When Dick Vermeil retired following the 2005 season, Kansas City wanted Edwards to be his successor and ultimately had to part with a draft pick after more than a week of intense haggling. Edwards was still under contract with New York, and had just finished his fifth season there with a 4-12 record.

The Jets were looking for a change and allowed Edwards to leave, then went to the playoffs the following season with a 10-6 record under first-year coach Eric Mangini. Edwards also went 10-6 with a postseason berth in his first season with the Chiefs.

Kansas City (4-11) and New York (3-12), however, have suffered major setbacks. They are two of three teams that qualified for the 2006 playoffs but have posted double-digit losses in 2007. Baltimore is 4-11 after going 13-3 in 2006.

Edwards' tough final season with the Jets gave Mangini the benefit of having the fourth overall pick in the 2006 draft in his first offseason as a head coach. Now, Mangini and New York will likely have one of the first five selections in the draft again.

The Chiefs, who have lost eight straight for the first time since a nine-game skid in 1987, also will have a top pick. This is Kansas City's worst season since Carl Peterson arrived as president and general manager in 1989.

"We've had some opportunities," Edwards said. "We've had them every week, but we just can't get it done."

The Chiefs have struggled without Larry Johnson (foot) over the last seven games, and Edwards confirmed Monday that the star running back would not play in the season finale. The two-time Pro Bowler tried to return to practice last week, but apparently suffered a setback.

Edwards also said quarterback Brodie Croyle is questionable for Sunday's game. The second-year pro, who has been disappointing in five starts, bruised his hand in a 25-20 loss to Detroit last Sunday.

Damon Huard will start if Croyle can't play.

"I'm hoping he can play this week," Edwards said. "Another week of him playing will help him and help us to evaluate. He's a guy we like - a guy who we think has some talent. We just have to wait and see."

In 2002, Edwards likely saved the Jets' season by giving Chad Pennington a chance to run the offense. Pennington made his first career start in a 29-22 loss to Kansas City on Oct. 6, 2002, but led New York to eight wins in its final 11 games en route to winning the AFC East.

Two shoulder surgeries and two offensive coordinators later, Pennington has been relegated to the bench in favor of 24-year-old Kellen Clemens.

Pennington, though, has taken most of the snaps over the past two weeks after Clemens injured his ribs and possibly his left shoulder in a 20-10 loss to New England on Dec. 16. Pennington was 26-of-32 for 264 yards while starting for Clemens against Tennessee last Sunday, but was constantly pressured and threw two costly interceptions in a 10-6 loss.

Clemens' status for Sunday is uncertain.

"You'd like to see him be able to play if he can play, but the important thing is that he's able to play at a level that gives us the best chance to win," Mangini said. "That's what I'm going to gauge throughout the course of the week."

With unsteady play at quarterback and a porous offensive line, the Jets are averaging 17.0 points per game to rank 24th in the league. The Chiefs, meanwhile, have gotten steady play from their defense during what has been an otherwise dismal season.

Kansas City is 13th in the NFL in total defense, allowing 318.3 yards per game. The Chiefs haven't finished in the top 15 in that category since ranking 14th in 1999 (314.9 ypg). They also rank sixth in pass defense, allowing 192.3 yards a contest.

New York, meanwhile, has been able to improve on defense over the second half of the season. The Jets have given up an average of 15.7 points over their last four games.

Mangini, hired by the Jets after serving as New England's defensive coordinator under Bill Belichick, has had mixed results employing a 3-4 scheme with New York after the team was built to play a 4-3 alignment under Edwards.

"I didn't really look at it in terms of his stamp," Mangini said of the transition from Edwards' defensive philosophy. "I looked at it in terms of the things that we were trying to do and how we were trying to move forward."

This will be the first meeting between Kansas City and New York since Sept. 11, 2005, when the Chiefs won 27-7. These teams will also play at the Meadowlands next season, but the date has not yet been announced.

By: Staff Writers - Email Us

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