The Kansas City Chiefs are coming off a disappointing Week 1 loss to the Detroit Lions, and things don’t figure to get much easier this weekend.
Going on the road for the first time this season, Andy Reid’s bunch travels down to Florida to square off against an old friend: Doug Pederson’s Jaguars. Both of these teams faced each other twice last season, with the regular season and playoff games each being decided by a final margin of 10 points or less.
The Jaguars, coming off a 9-8 campaign that saw them finish much better than they started, are favorites in the AFC South. Defeating Anthony Richardson and the Indianapolis Colts last week in comeback fashion, they also have some momentum as one of the top teams in the conference rolls into town. This game could be another potential playoff preview for early 2024, as neither squad is coming up short in the talent department and both have high hopes for the rest of this season.
What’s important to know about Sunday’s Chiefs vs. Jaguars matchup? How could the action unfold? John Shipley of Jaguar Report was kind enough to answer five questions for me to cover all of that and more.
1. How big of a mental boost was last week’s comeback win over the Colts?
JS: It was huge, but it is also worth remembering that this is kind of who the Jaguars are under Doug Pederson. They start slow, do things that good teams shouldn’t, but then turn it up when their backs are against the wall. It is important that some of the Jaguars’ young players like Anton Harrison, Brenton Strange and Tank Bigsby were able to see what it means to take a game in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars are a team that is hard to put down — not too different from Pederson’s mentor, Andy Reid, and his squads.
2. Explain how significant of an addition Calvin Ridley has been to the Jaguars’ offense
JS: I think it is hard to honestly put into words just how much Calvin Ridley changes things for the Jaguars’ offense. Trevor Lawrence has always needed a dynamic downfield target, and he finally has that in Ridley. Lawrence is one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks in terms of timing, processing and the ability to hit tight-window throws. Having a receiver like Ridley who can win one-on-ones downfield means Lawrence can now use those traits to finally stretch the field. Ridley is a big play waiting to happen, and the Jaguars’ offense can now finally drop some bombs.
3. What is this year’s early assessment of Jacksonville’s defense?
JS: The Jaguars’ defense had a lot of questions entering Week 1, even though they are returning 11-of-11 starters from a year ago (sans an injury to NT DaVon Hamilton). Their pass rush struggled to finish a year ago and they finished with one of the worst pass defenses in the league. They were able to limit the Colts’ passing game thanks to some strong plays in coverage from Tyson Campbell, Andre Cisco and Darious Williams, but the Colts also didn’t attempt a single pass over 20 yards. The run defense is their strength for now, with Josh Allen and Travon Walker each having a great week setting the edge. It was a good start vs. the Colts, but it was just the Colts.
4. Who’s one non-Patrick Mahomes or Travis Kelce player the Jaguars must slow down on Sunday?
JS: Trent McDuffie. The way the Jaguars have lost games in the Doug Pederson era is almost always via self-inflicted mistakes. McDuffie is one of the best young defensive backs in football and can be a force in coverage and as a tackler. The Jaguars could feel pressure to feed Christian Kirk in the slot after he caught just one pass last week, but they should look to avoid McDuffie.
5. How do you see this game playing out and who ends up winning?
JS: I almost feel like I have to go with the Chiefs simply because they lost last week and it would be baffling to see them start 0-2. I think the Jaguars have a chance to make this a shootout, but they are having some offensive line issues with injuries, especially in the interior. I think Patrick Mahomes does Patrick Mahomes things and the Chiefs win a 34-27 game.