KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It is past the halfway point in the NFL season and the Kansas City Chiefs are supposedly past—at least on paper—the most difficult part of their schedule.
But anything can happen in the NFL.
The Chiefs welcome the Jacksonville Jaguars into town on Sunday. This is the first time the Chiefs have played the Jags since Week 1 of the 2019 season when the Chiefs won 40-26.
The Chiefs have had trouble with AFC South teams this season, losing to the Indianapolis Colts and beating the Tennessee Titans in overtime last week.
Patrick Mahomes has been on a tear lately, leading the league in passing yards and touchdowns. Second-year Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence is continuing to improve as the season goes on using his athleticism to ignite the Jaguars’ ground game while enhancing the passing attack.
The Jags rushing attack has been one of their strong points this season as Travis Etienne is fifth in the league in rushing yards. It is on the outside, where they need consistent production.
Jaguars tight end Evan Engram has been listed on the injury report with a back injury but practiced on Friday which makes it likely that he will play on Sunday.
Their leading receiver has been Christian Kirk with 574 yards and four touchdowns and Zay Jones follows him with 349 yards and a touchdown of his own.
The Chiefs seemed to have found their clear-cut number-one receiver in JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has garnered 22 catches, 325 yards and two touchdowns in the last three games and has expressed his desire to stay with the franchise.
Kansas City will be without speedster Mecole Hardman, who is out due to an abdominal injury and playing some of the best football of his career with five total touchdowns in his last three games. The acquisition of Kadarius Toney should loom large as he will likely fill in for Hardman.
The Chiefs also boast Travis Kelce, who continues to be atop the league’s tight ends but the Chiefs’ run game has struggled and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has said that the offense just needs to run the ball more to fix it.
The Chiefs’ defense came up big last week, especially in the second half, where they held the Titans to three points.
Although the defense had three sacks and four quarterback hits against Tennessee, they must find a way to get consistent pressure on the QB.
The secondary is young but they continue to show signs of improvement and the return of rookie corner Trent McDuffie only enhances them.
The Titans got consistent pressure on QB Patrick Mahomes without blitzing much and the Jaguars will have to do the same.
Jacksonville has talented players on that side of the ball, including defensive linemen Josh Allen and Dawaune Smoot. They also have 2022 first-overall draft pick Travon Walker, who has played well this year with 2.5 sacks, five quarterback hits and a 59.9 grade on Pro Football Focus.
While every NFL season is unpredictable, the Chiefs are expected by many to run away with this game quickly.
Jacksonville is coming off a 17-point come-from-behind win against the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Jaguars are 3-6 but have talent on both sides of the ball to compete and catch Kansas City off guard if the Chiefs aren’t careful.
Kansas City is playing well but seems to be a little beat up after a physical game against the Titans.
But Mahomes is in prime form and on the heels of saving the Chiefs in a historic effort last game, he’ll look to do the same against the Jaguars.