Look, we all know what Ryan Fitzpatrick has done to the Chiefs. We all know he’s gone six touchdowns and no interceptions in blowout wins each of the last two seasons and was 4-1 against the Chiefs as the Bills quarterback the last five years.
But, guys. The Chiefs are catching a break here with Jake Locker’s hip injury. A huge break. Locker was playing really well — finally — completing 62 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and no interceptions with a 99.0 passer rating (sixth in the NFL) and 72.3 so-called Total QBR (fifth).
Fitzpatrick is a solid backup quarterback, but has a weaker arm than Locker, isn’t as athletic, and has a sort of hitch in his motion that makes his delivery longer. In very crude terms, Locker was playing better than Alex Smith this year and the Titans have just been downgraded to something more like Matt Cassel.
The difference between Locker and Fitzpatrick is, at least in my view after looking at some numbers and watching some video, the difference between picking the Chiefs to lose on the road this week and thinking they’ll move to 5-0.
Some other thoughts from watching the Titans:
- A lot of what happened in last Sunday’s 38-13 win over the Jets should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt because, holy cow, the Jets were AWFUL.
- Especially Geno Smith. Like, his first pass of the game, the Jets go play-action, there’s no real pressure on Smith, but he throws behind Stephen Hill and the pass is intercepted by Alterraun Verner.
- Verner, by the way, is playing brilliantly this season — four interceptions, two recovered fumbles. Advanced NFL Stats and Pro Football Focus each rate him as the game’s best cornerback through four games, and it’s easy to see why. Depending on who he covers, this may not be the best game for Dwayne Bowe to break out.
- The Titans’ first touchdown against the Jets came on a play-action call near the goal line. The Jets sold out on the run, leaving receiver Delanie Walker open, and Locker dropped it in perfectly. The Titans run a lot of play-action, and I assume they’ll do even more of it with Locker out and Fitzpatrick in.
- The Titans’ receivers are a physically gifted group, even by NFL standards. Walker, Damian Williams, Kendall Wright, Nate Washington and Justin Hunter can all make plays on their own.
- Speaking of Hunter, he’s the rookie from the U of Tennessee picked in the second round. He’s caught two passes in the NFL, both for touchdowns. The one against the Jets was basically a lob pass, a jump ball that Locker threw when he saw Jets corner Darrin Walls alone in coverage. Hunter used his body well, high-pointed the pass, and came down with it.
- Another strength of the Titans is their pass rush. Jurrell Casey, Derrick Morgan and Ropati Pitoitua (remember him?) form a tough front line. Casey has three sacks from the defensive tackle position, and linebacker Zach Brown also has three. Pitoitua hasn’t practiced this week.
- Really, it can’t be said enough how bad the Jets were against the Titans. At one point, one of the announcers said, "I’d keep all sharp objects away from Rex (Ryan) right now."
- And that was before Geno Smith essentially gave the Titans a touchdown by trying to go behind-his-back with the ball, at the goal line, while being sacked.
- The Titans are very aggressive on defense, especially in going for turnovers. The plus side for them is that they’ve forced nine of them, the downside for them is that the aggression can lead to more yards. There was a play on Sunday where Jets running back Bilal Powell went an extra 25 yards or so because Titans linebacker Akeem Ayers tried to hammer the ball out of his hands instead of making the tackle.
- The biggest difference between Locker and Fitzpatrick might be arm strength. Locker’s deep ball has velocity; Fitzpatrick’s tends to float. Fitzpatrick threw a deep ball to Nate Washington, who had a step on his guy but had to slow down to wait for it to drop. Washington basically went up for the rebound, grabbed it over Antonio Cromartie (and the back judge, who really shouldn’t have been there) and ran into the end zone. Cromartie has had a lot of success in the NFL, so no disrespect, but that’s probably not a play that Flowers (if he’s healthy) or Sean Smith will give up.
- You figure that the change in quarterback means the Titans will rely on Chris Johnson even more. He’s been getting 21 carries a game, though he hasn’t been involved much in the pass offense. Johnson isn’t quite what he was in that 2,006-yard season of 2009 (his yards-per-carry since that year are 4.3, 4.0, 4.5, and, so far this year, 3.3) but he’s still very dangerous. You can see some plays already this year where, if he’s against a linebacker in space, it’s one quick move and the next guy better be there for the tackle.
- I know this isn’t about the Jets, but man, Geno Smith just looked terrible. There was a play where he almost took a safety just by backwards from the 15 on a screen that never developed. Instead of throwing the ball near his running back’s feet, like all NFL quarterbacks do, Smith just kept drifting, got sacked, and then sat on his butt and blamed a teammate.
- Titans are pretty good on special teams. PFF has them 10th in the NFL so far. Against the Jets, Darius Reynaud had a 35-yard punt return around a nice wall his blockers set up along the right sideline. The Titans also downed a punt inside the 1.