The AFC Divisional round playoffs are nearly upon us. The Jacksonville Jaguars stunned the Los Angeles Chargers in the Wild Card round, erasing a 27-point deficit and walking away with a 31-30 victory. Now, the Jaguars have the tall task of going to Arrowhead Stadium to play the No. 1 seed in the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs.
The game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday and will be broadcast on NBC.
Our conversation is below.
1. The Chiefs finished the 2022 regular season at 14-3 and earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC (and a bye week) for the NFL playoffs. What does this team do well and what does it need to do better?
Tom: Unsurprisingly, you won’t be shocked the learn that the Chiefs do a lot of things well — especially on offense. During a year in which many expected the offense to struggle (did you know that Tyreek Hill left the Chiefs?), the offense did anything but. Unlike in previous years, the Chiefs are finding ways to attack all levels of defenses with multiple weapons. That’s what makes the Chiefs’ offense so exciting. It’s like a box of chocolates, you’ll never know which one you’re going to get.
That being said, they’re not perfect. Turnovers have been a big issue this year. Almost every player that has touched the ball this year has been guilty of handing over the ball to the opposition, If there is a reason for optimism for the Jags’ defense then that should be it.
2. Did you watch the Jaguars’ incredible comeback over the Chargers this past weekend? If so, what were your thoughts? What specifically scares you about the Jaguars?
Tom: Fan talk first:
I decided to watch this game “as if it was live” the morning after it happened — I live in the U.K. Soon after switching it on, the score was 10-0, then 17-0, and then 27-0. At this point, I had enough and skipped to the end.
What. An. Idiot.
I love watching a comeback as much as anyone else. I especially love watching a comeback against my team’s rivals. So to miss this was gutting. That’s not to say I haven’t watched it back. Of course, I have — but it didn’t carry the same excitement it would have. You guys must have had the best time, so congrats.
Now to the question:
Apart from the obvious things to be scared of about the Jags — quarterback, receiver, coach, etc — what really frightens me is the attitude that they’ll come into the game with. After mounting a comeback as the Jaguars did, they’ll believe that they can beat anyone. Coming back in such fashion isn’t for everyone. The Chiefs must treat that as a huge warning sign against complacency.
The other part of my answer is even scarier for Chiefs fans...
Let’s be honest, Jags fan...you’re playing with house money. To reach the Divisional round of the playoffs in Doug Pederson’s first year would have been above and beyond anyone’s expectations coming into the year. This game is a free hit. Opponents playing with that type of mentality scare me more than salads scare an Arrowhead tailgate.
3. The Chiefs beat the Jaguars 27-17 at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 10. Do you get the sense at all that Kansas City fans, or the team itself, is looking ahead of Jacksonville to the potential AFC Championship round at all? Why or why not?
Tom: I think the Chiefs tend to look a game ahead in the regular season. However, I can’t accuse them of the same when it really matters. Matt Nagy has pointed out this week how locked in Patrick Mahomes is. That doesn’t sound like the type of guy taking anything for granted.
As for the fan base? Now I certainly sense some arrogance toward this matchup. But as you’ll find out with Trevor Lawrence over the next few years, it can be hard for some to stay humble when a quarterback is playing at a level at which you’ve never seen someone play before in your team’s colors.
4. Who are the players to watch on Kansas City’s offense outside of quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce? Who are the players to watch on defense?
Tom: I was skeptical about the Chiefs’ decision to trade for Kadarius Toney originally. I just didn’t see why the Chiefs would choose to invest draft capital into a player that had offered very little so far in his NFL career. Now I know why general manage Brett Veach gets paid to do what he does and I don’t. Since his trade, the Chiefs have been slowly but surely working Toney more and more into their game plan, and in the absence of Mecole Hardman, it has been Toney who has picked up some of the slack. Don’t be surprised if he goes off on Saturday.
Defensively, the improvement started with the pass rush. Chris Jones is a guy that every Jags fan will be well aware of so I’ll avoid the layup. Instead, I’ll point out our rookie edge rusher, George Karlaftis. Admittedly, he had a quiet start to the season but more recently has had success — registering 5.5 sacks in his last 7 games. The emergence of a more consistent pass rush isn’t simply down to Chris Jones playing at an all-world level and the rookie chirping in, but it certainly has helped.
5. According to the DraftKings Sportsbook, the Chiefs are currently nine-point favorites and the over/under is set at 53. Do you think the Jaguars will cover the spread, are you taking the over or under, and what is your final score prediction?
Tom: I’ve got a feeling that the Chiefs have been saving something for the playoffs. I’m not talking about multiple snow globe-style plays, but maybe some more tight-end heavy sets or running empty with five speedsters on the outside. I’m not sure about the specifics, but something along those lines would be great because they’ve been very successful in the limited times we’ve seen them.
More importantly, I am hoping the Chiefs come out of the traps faster than a greyhound chasing a hare. If they do, the Jaguars will have to chase points. They won’t be able to slowly build their way back into the game as they did against the Chargers. They’ll need to keep pace. That’s when I expect the new and improved version of the Chiefs’ defense to come into play.
My prediction: Chiefs win 41-24