KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs are in a familiar position as they prepare to face the Jacksonville Jaguars for the second time this season in the AFC Divisional Round.
The Chiefs will face the Jags for the second time this year, beating them 27-17 in the first matchup, in a game they controlled from start to finish.
They will be facing a much different Jaguars team this time around though, one that has vastly improved from that week 10 matchup in November.
Let’s take a look at how the two teams stack up against each other
The Kansas City Chiefs boasted one of the best offenses in the league in the season, averaging a league-high 29.2 points per game, in large-part thanks to the play of likely soon-to-be two-time MVP Patrick Mahomes.
Mahomes took his game to another level this year, leading the league with 41 touchdowns and 5250 passing yards.
Also, since the last battle between the two squads, Jerick McKinnon has emerged as legitimate receiving weapon for the Chiefs out of the backfield, scoring a receiving touchdown in the last six games, the only running back in NFL history to do so.
He makes the Chiefs offense more dynamic with a group that already includes Travis Kelce, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Another important factor, will the play of Isiah Pacheco, who had a solid rookie year as he led the Chiefs in rushing with 830 yards and five touchdowns.
As for the Jaguars, the improvement of Trevor Lawrence is a big reason for their in-season turnaround along with the play of their defense.
He finished the year with 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Jags also have one of the better rushing units in the league thanks to the play of Travis Etienne who compiled 1125 yards rushing and five touchdowns.
The receiving unit is led by Christian Kirk who had 1108 yards and five receiving touchdowns. Zay Jones and Evan Engram also pose threats in the passing game for Jacksonville.
The Chiefs defense has been up and down all year and has a lot of inexperience as they’re loaded with a plethora of rookies, especially in the secondary.
The pass rush is key for the Chiefs’ success in the playoffs. They were second in the league in sacks this season with 55, led by Chris Jones, who tied his career-high with 15.5 sacks but has yet to record a postseason sack, something he’ll look to change immediately.
Rookie George Karlaftis stepped up at the end of the season, finishing second on the team in sacks with six. Frank Clark is dealing with a groin injury but did practice and has been a key in Karlaftis’ development.
He has been known to elevate his game in the postseason as well.
The Chiefs sacked Lawrence five times in the first matchup. It is imperative they duplicate that success if they want to advance.
Another important factor will be the secondary and their ability to make plays. Can they create turnovers?
The Jaguars’ defense started out slow but picked up at the end of the season. They have the first overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft in Travon Walker and Josh Allen, who led the team with six sacks.
They can make things interesting if they can get to Mahomes.
This has been an area where the Chiefs have been shaky all year. The Harrison Butker struggles have been a topic of conversation all season. Muffed punts have also been an issue.
Special teams can blunder can and will cost you in the postseason so the Chiefs must sure things up, starting with Special Teams Coach Dave Toub.
Both teams had trouble in the special teams’ department in the first matchup. Jaguars kicker Riley Patterson missed two field goals in that game.
This area is very intriguing. Doug Pederson spent some time in Kansas City under Andy Reid where he was the offensive coordinator for the Chiefs for multiple seasons before becoming head coach of Reid’s former team, the Philadelphia Eagles.
Pederson is beyond proven, known for quickly turning teams around.
He won a Super Bowl with the Eagles in his second season and led the Jaguars to the playoffs this season just a year after an abysmal and brief tenure with Urban Meyer where they had the worst record in the league.
Andy Reid is one of the best offensive minds in the history of the NFL and his resume speaks for itself. As much as he’s accomplished, you’d think he’d have more than one Super Bowl.
He has won and won consistently his whole career. It will be interesting to see how often Reid decides to run the ball in these playoffs, something many have questioned throughout the season.
The Chiefs should win, but they can’t let Jacksonville hang around. On the other hand, if Jacksonville starts out anywhere remotely close to how they did against the Chargers, they’ll be in for a long game.
It is hard to bet against Mahomes, who continuously elevates his game and his teammates around this time of the year.
If the Chiefs can take care of business, they will be third team in NFL history to reach five straight conference championship games.