We are still relatively early into the 2018 season, but this is arguably the biggest game of the year for the Jacksonville Jaguars, as the team travels to Missouri to take on the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. This game could go a long way in determining home-field advantage and playoff seedings come January, as two of the AFC’s best meet for a head-to-head encounter.
To help prepare us for the AFC showdown, I talked to Pete Sweeney, editor-in-chief of Arrowhead Pride — SB Nation’s essential Kansas City Chiefs website. Pete provides great insights into the 2018 Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes and the matchup itself. Check it out below:
1. Of course, the Jaguars have the No. 1 defense in terms of points allowed (total defense and passing defense as well, but who’s counting?), and the Chiefs have the No. 1 scoring offense in the league. Which side do you think has the advantage and why?
Pete: I think the Chiefs have the slight advantage this season in particular because of the uptick in penalties on defensive players. The old NFL cliché has been “defense wins championships,” but it really seems like the NFL is trending away from that, doesn’t it? Everyone has seen the Clay Matthews penalties the league has doubled down on, and the league released this stat on Thursday: Through the first four weeks of the season, there have been 344 total touchdowns and 3,030 total points scored across the league. Both are the most in history.
2. Is the Patrick Mahomes “magic” real? He threw for 300-plus yards and willed his team back last Monday night, and that was considered a bit of a “down” game for him with only one touchdown pass (plus a rushing TD). Do you expect him to keep this pace? What is his floor?
Pete: I do. I think the magic we are seeing from Patrick Mahomes is real. During the offseason, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach called Mahomes one of the best players he had ever seen, and head coach Andy Reid did nothing to slow down the hype train. This was very unlike the Chiefs and Reid, so I knew that Mahomes had to have the right traits. What has shocked me is how fast he has taken the league by storm — just five games in. We’re already seeing an ability to do things very few people in the world can do, and I’m eager to see how he performs against a challenge as strong as the Jaguars defense.
3. The Kansas City defense has struggled, currently ranking dead last in the NFL in total yards allowed, but looked to be at least somewhat improved last week against the Denver Broncos. On the other hand, Jacksonville’s offense is very inconsistent, capable of absolutely exploding or not being able to score many points at all. Do you think the shaky Chiefs defense can stop the Jaguars’ offense?
Pete: I don’t. I think the Jacksonville Jaguars will certainly have their drives. The Chiefs defense hasn’t been great against tight ends, so this could also be the game that Austin Seferian-Jenkins finally gets things going. At least so far, the Chiefs have looked to be a flat-out bad defense. It’s not going to be whether or not the Chiefs defense can stop opposing offenses this year, it’s going to be about whether they can stop opposing offensives enough to allow Mahomes to take care of the rest.
4. Is there a sort of an under-the-radar Chiefs player on either side of the ball (or both) that Jaguars fans should be aware of?
Offense: TE Demetrius Harris. Harris has gotten between 30 and 40 percent of offensive snaps in each game he’s played in this season, but when he’s in the game, he’s worth watching. Even with limited time, Harris has managed three catches for 72 yards and a touchdown, and despite all the weapons Reid has at receiver, he’ll mix in some two-tight end sets.
Defense: S Eric Murray. Murray has been improving every week, and he is coming off a Monday night game in which he made a fantastic interception. Murray should likely play next to Ron Parker with Eric Berry (heal injury) continuing to be a question mark for the Chiefs.
5. Other than Mahomes’ incredible play, what else is working so well for the Chiefs that has contributed to the 4-0 start: play-calling, offensive playmakers, special teams, etc.?
Pete: I think outsiders want to say the Chiefs drafted “a freak” in Mahomes and that’s why they’re winning. That’s true, but it isn’t just that. I look at Mahomes and Reid like a chicken-egg situation. Both are having the early 2018 success because they have each other. Reid has injected a bit of Air Raid (Texas Tech) into the Chiefs offense, which we have now been calling the Air Reid. Reid has been making the right calls and even despite five games of experience, Mahomes makes the right decisions more often than not. I joke about this a lot, but it seems like the Chiefs pick a different weapon to feature every week, like on a rotation. Last week was the Hunt and Kelce game, for example. It’s been a few weeks since a Hill explosion, and this could be the week.
Bonus: score prediction?
Pete: 24-17 Chiefs. I think the Jags do a nice job slowing the game down, but in the end, Mahomes is too much. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the game!