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Know the Opponent, Week 2: Must-Know Facts About the Jaguars

The Chiefs' search for its first win gets no easier in Week 2, with a battle against a familiar AFC foe. What's worth knowing about the Jaguars?

Days after going toe-to-toe with the NFL’s darlings in Detroit, the Kansas City Chiefs get a crack at another similarly celebrated Jacksonville Jaguars group, one with Super Bowl aspirations in 2023.

Jacksonville, on the backs of a potent new connection in Trevor Lawrence and Calvin Ridley, opened the campaign with a 31-21 triumph and return home eyeing its first win over Kansas City since 2009. Here, we take a look at a few factors to consider.

Three “obvious” factors ahead of Week 2:

No. 87’s potential return

Here’s a not-so-hot take on the Chiefs in Week 1: the normal swagger and bravado just wasn’t there without eight-time Pro Bowler Travis Kelce. Everything from Patrick Mahomes’s accuracy (the fourth-lowest completion percentage of his career) to Andy Reid’s playcalling to the receivers’ confidence felt misaligned in the 21-20 loss.

What would be the only thing better than welcoming Kelce back into the fold in Week 2?

Well, how about welcoming him back against a team that allowed the fourth-most yards to tight ends (1,066) from a season ago?

You likely recall last season’s AFC Divisional duel in which Kelce declawed the Jaguars to the tune of a 14-catch, 98-yard, two-touchdown performance. If you had on black and teal on Jan. 21, 2023, there’s the possibility that Kelce might’ve caught a pass on you:

The possible return from the bone bruise in his knee would grant Kansas City its No. 1 pre-snap motion indicator, its third-down safety valve and a player who commands enough attention to help the rushing attack get back on track.

Can student trick teacher?

One week after Dan Campbell’s fearless, Madden-esque decision to attack the Chiefs on fourth-and-2 from his own 17 in the first quarter, it’d come as zero surprise if Doug Pederson’s Jaguars keep the pressure cooker warm on Kansas City once more with a trick play.

Tasked with putting together a formula for defeating the Mahomes-Reid juggernaut, the answer might be to “steal a possession,” convert in some high-leverage situation and win the time of possession battle. Over Mahomes’ last five losses, all five teams won the time of possession, and four of them required a fourth-down conversion of some sort.

Enter Pederson, who, in last season’s first meeting, opened the game with an onside kick — effectively eliminating a drive from the NFL’s best offense:

The Jaguars’ season opener featured eight different roll-the-dice decisions to go for it on fourth down. Ninth in fourth-down attempts (29) in 2022, Jacksonville should command all eyes if the opportunity arrives.

The wounded Jaguars

If there were an Achilles heel surrounding the Jaguars, ironically enough, it’d be the injuries they’ve dealt with along an already-concerning offensive line.

Sunday’s lead-up offers an injury report that reads like a CVS receipt. All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff (ankle sprain) was carted off the field in Indianapolis; his backup (Tyler Shatley) has been dealing with heart arrhythmia all offseason; their No. 27 pick (Anton Harrison) spent much of the summer in a shoulder harness and their original left tackle (Cam Robinson) is suspended for four games to open 2023-24.

This is part of the reason why Lawrence has become one of the NFL's most frequent quick-throwers. Assuming Chris Jones’s presence invigorates his teammates, Kansas City could make Lawrence a jaguar on the run on Sunday.

Three “not-so-obvious” factors to consider in Week 2:

The (literally) hot topic

As the cool guy in action movies often says when he runs into the woman he likes, “We’ve got to stop meeting like this.” The same could be said of the Jaguars and Chiefs, who’ve dueled in everything from historic-level heat at Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Field to slippery, snowy conditions in last year’s playoffs.

Sunday afternoon’s tilt will offer no such reprieve.

Jacksonville’s forecast projects mid-80s temperature and rain. The Chiefs, despite being 0-1, scored a long-term win in locking up Jones to an incentive-heavy one-year deal. It’s worth wondering, though, how Kansas City monitors his snap count (if they do at all) with 60 percent humidity. Being in shape and being in game shape are two different things. 

There’s also the matter of Kansas City’s rushing attack — No. 28 in EPA through Week 1 — rediscovering its footing. The special teams battle, too, was a critical phase in both teams’ season openers.

The Jaguars’ first-time play-caller

If it relates to offensive brilliance, odds are that it has ties to Andy Reid in some way. Within Sunday’s teacher-versus-student duel featuring Reid and Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson, there’s also the dynamic of first-time play-caller Press Taylor.

Taylor, who oversaw Jacksonville’s 31-point output in Week 1, graduated from only calling second-half plays in 2022 to becoming a full-time play-caller in 2023, similar to the way Pederson did with the Chiefs under Reid’s “watchful eye” in 2015.

Analyzing both the positive (near-equal run-pass balance) and negative (two turnovers, 25% third downs), you wonder if Taylor and Pederson will up their ante and aggressiveness with No. 15 on the sidelines.

Fighting the Law

Some of the throws that Trevor Lawrence made last Sunday were, in one word, breathtaking. To illustrate:

The second throw — the naked bootleg to Ridley’s crossing pattern — felt Mahomes-like; Lawrence has the arm strength needed to throw a football through the window of a moving train. 

But, once you do finally catch your breath, you’re likely to note how difficult it is to live on a diet of similarly difficult throws. The aforementioned throw had just a 23.2% chance of being completed, per Next Gen Stats, and Lawrence’s Week 1 tape is filled with high-risk, high-reward, low-probability throws.

The Pro Bowl quarterback ranked No. 24 with 18 interceptable passes in 2022. After failing to take Jared Goff out of his rhythm last Thursday, the Chiefs' defense could be positioned for opportunities against a talented-yet-imperfect Jags offense.

Score Prediction: Chiefs 28, Jaguars 24