Question 1: This week’s big storyline is the return of Chris Jones and Travis Kelce. Would you expect them to be 100% and back like they never left, or do you expect less-than-full workloads on Sunday?
Actually, I think you’ll find that the biggest story involving Travis Kelce is who he is rumoured to be dating.
But seriously, I cannot begin to tell you how important it is that he is back from injury. There were worries that he would not be able to shake it off in time ahead of this game, but a full week of participation has him feeling 22 once again.
His absence was noticeable against the Lions. There was an obvious blank space in the offense that no one could fill. Noah Gray and Blake Bell certainly tried but emulating the greatest tight end of all time is no easy task. With Kelce back, I expect the offense to click once more — even if he is on a snap count.
It’s been a cruel summer covering the Chris Jones story — and to be frank — I’m just glad we can park it until the offseason. While there will be no bad blood between the two camps, there will be a little more to this love story in March, or April time.
In his absence, the defense actually played well against the Lions. But if we Chiefs fans were being honest with ourselves, there was very little chance that they could maintain that level of play for more than a couple of games without their anti-hero. #95 believes that he is good to go full-time on Sunday, and with a lot of money on the line in incentives, it will be tough to take him out.
Q2: I haven’t seen Pat Mahomes as flustered as he was last Thursday night since the 2021-22 AFC Championship loss to the Bengals. Obviously, he didn’t have Kelce, Kadarius Toney played terribly, Rashee Rice was making his first start, etc., etc. -- but is there anything you saw from Detroit’s defense/Kansas City’s offense in Week 1 that gives you pause, or will we soon forget about the Chiefs’ slow start?
It was a really strange game to evaluate Patrick Mahomes. On one hand, you can look at his performance and think it was a very ‘meh’ game. On the other, you could argue that he put the ball where it needed to be — most of the time. I kind of sit in the middle. I don’t think it was his best game but nor do I think it was his worst.
The Lions defensive line certainly pressured Mahomes but I don’t think they put off his game. On multiple snaps, Mahomes was able to stand in the pocket, and on the times he couldn’t let his offensive line do its’ thing, he escaped the pocket and looked to do what he does best — perform out of structure.
The real issue for the Chiefs’ offense was the wide receivers. The drops were obviously the big difference in this game but that wasn’t a concern for myself or my fellow Chiefs fans. Instead, it was the inability to read the Lions’ zone defense or the inability to keep route or space discipline. I would argue that it was this that flustered Mahomes.
Drops can be fixed because they are at their root cause, a mental mishap, but running the wrong routes and not understanding defenses? Now that is a much bigger problem.
Q3: I think the biggest mismatch of the game is Chris Jones against Jacksonville’s interior offensive line, which just got manhandled by DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart. Would you agree, or is there another Week 2 matchup that stands out to you?
I would absolutely agree with your assessment. When I sat down to watch the Jags matchup with the Colts, the struggles of the interior offensive line were there for all to see.
As I mentioned earlier the Chiefs defensive line performed admirably against the Lions but I did have concerns over sustainability. With Jones back, the defensive tackle position switches from a huge weakness to a huge strength for the Chiefs.
Suddenly, the game plan for the Jags becomes all about #95. Do you double-team? Do you run away from him? What is Lawrence’s escape plan? Who are his hot routes? Interior game wreckers are like Buckner and Jones are wonderful for the team who possess one but are an absolute disaster for those facing them.
Despite the struggles on the interior for the Jags, do not be surprised if we see Jones line up outside too. Jones is afforded a luxury rarely given by defensive coordinators in that he can dictate at times where he lines up.
His return is a huge boost for the Chiefs and comes in a week when I think he is definitely needed.
Q4: One of the secret ingredients to Kansas City’s Super Bowl run last year was the development and performances of young defensive backs. Can you tell us more about the faces in that unit, and expectations for them this season?
The introduction and development of the ‘Fab Five’ took us all by surprise, honestly. We’ve known for years that Brett Veach has a nack for finding contributors in the defensive back field — but the 2022 NFL Draft was on another level.
Trent McDuffie is probably the face of the group — after all, he was a first-round pick. But being the face of the defensive backfield comes with expectations. Thankfully, he lived up to them. His 76.0 grade from PFF placed him fourth amongst all eligible cornerbacks, and the 11th top-graded rookie overall. His ability to line up all over the field make him a valuable contributor in a defense that already possesses another Swiss army knife cornerback in L’Jarius Sneed.
In the later rounds, the Chiefs selected Nazeeh Johnson, Joshua Williams, Brian Cook and Jaylen Watson.
While all of the other four players have cemented roles in the defense, Johnson had to settle for a special teams role in 2022, but he did look poised to push for snaps in Spag’s defense before an unfortunate injury cut his season short.
Safety Brian Cook had to wait for his opportunity to find his spot in the rotation — but when opportunity knocked, he stepped up. An impressive run of performances in the NFL Playoffs allowed the Chiefs to move on from long-term safety Juan Thornhill this offseason. You’ll see Cook popping up all over this Sunday, I am sure.
Williams and Watson were the real surprise packages of the 2022 season. Thrust into the limelight almost immediately, both of these cornerbacks performed way above the expected level from day 3 draft picks. I would go as far as to say that it was the play of these two that was one of the main (if not the biggest) factors in the Chiefs’ success last season.
Now the unfortunate (or fortunate depending on how feel) thing for this unit is that the levels of expectation are much, much higher. They’ve proven that they can perform at the highest level as a group. The issues they face now is that opponent wide receivers and offensive coordinators have enough film to evaluate and study tendencies.
The clash of Evan Engram, Zay Jones, Christian Kirk and Calvin Ridley vs. the ‘Fav Five’ (or four) is certainly a mouth-watering one.
Q5: The Chiefs are 3.5-point favorites according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Which side of the spread are you taking, and are there any player/game props that stand out to you?
On their day, the Chiefs are too much for any team, hence, I always think the bookmakers are correct to side with the Chiefs. The interesting point is the spread.
This spread says much about both teams and their Week 1 performances. The Chiefs were unconvincing while the Jags were extremely convincing, even if the level of opponents was tiered.
This spread I am staying well clear of this because If I had to put it into percentages, I’m like 51-49% in favor of the Chiefs. Only because the Chiefs are 13-3 after Mahomes’ regular season losses.
As for a bet, I’m going for preseason sensation, Justyn Ross for an anytime touchdown at +900.
Thanks for having me Jags fans, I’ll see some of you at Wembley Stadium in a few weeks!
Thanks to Tom for taking the time to answer our questions!
What are your thoughts on this week’s matchup, Jaguars fans? Let us know in the comments!