The Kansas City Chiefs are facing their second consecutive AFC South team at home with the Jacksonville Jaguars heading to GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium for Week 10.
The Chiefs are looking to keep pace in the AFC playoff hunt while the Jaguars are looking to prove themselves against one of the best teams in the league. After comeback wins for both teams in Week 9, which squad will come out on top this week?
Here are five of the things we’ll be looking at throughout the course of the game:
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The Chiefs ran 100 offensive snaps in the overtime win over the Tennesse Titans in Week 9. Patrick Mahomes threw 68 passes, just a few shy of the NFL’s record for the most passes thrown in a single game. With all of that in mind, it’s reasonable to expect that the offense might have a bit of fatigue even seven days later.
Andy Reid said the team wasn’t doing anything special this week to try and offset the high number of snaps, though they conveniently switched to their midseason practice schedule this week. That means lighter practices earlier in the practice week. Execution is going to have to be on point this week and jumping out to an early lead might be even more crucial than in previous weeks in order to get the offense off the field and the defense playing more snaps.
A test for the defense
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Jacksonville quietly has one of the better offenses in the NFL this season, ranking seventh in total offense with nine games played. They have the fifth-most total yards, coming in just behind Kansas City. They’re averaging the eighth-most yards per game in the NFL this season and they’re right around the league average in points per game.
Perhaps the biggest test will be whether the defensive line can get any pressure on Trevor Lawrence. The Jags’ offensive line has allowed the second-fewest sacks in the league this season with 12. We know that Steve Spagnuolo is living and dying by the blitz this season, but the Jaguars actually have positive EPA against the blitz on first, second and third down this season.
Doug Pederson's return
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For the second time since leaving Kansas City for a head-coaching gig, former offensive coordinator Doug Pederson will be back at Arrowhead Stadium looking to defeat his former mentor. The first matchup came back in Week 4 of the 2017 NFL season when the Chiefs defeated Pederson’s Philadelphia Eagles squad 27-20. Pederson has already admitted that he views this as a measuring-stick game for his team. The results of the game will tell them how far away they actually are from contending in the AFC conference.
With Patrick Mahomes at the helm, teams have played the Chiefs differently. On the offensive side of the ball, they’re much more willing to take chances. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pederson’s squad go for it on fourth down a few times. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him bust out some trick plays or fakes on special teams. Ultimately, you have to work to gain every possible advantage against this team if you’re trying to win.
Who steps up in the red zone?
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Over the past three games, Chiefs WR Mecole Hardman has been a weapon for the team in the red zone. He’s scored four touchdowns within the 20-yard line and another from the 25-yard line since Week 6. Most of the plays came on manufactured touches, outside of a pass he caught out of the backfield in Week 9 against the Titans.
With Hardman ruled out in Week 10, Kansas City will need some new players to step up when they get in the red zone. They’ll have Jody Fortson back in the lineup this week and he naturally sees some targets in the red zone. Fans are hopeful that Kadarius Toney will see an increase in snaps, potentially getting those manufactured touches in the red zone. In any event, it’ll look different for the Chiefs this week in the red zone.
The Ronald Jones conundrum
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With Jerick McKinnon listed as questionable with a new hamstring injury popping up on Friday, the Chiefs could make Ronald Jones active for the first time this season in Week 10. The problem is that Jones is not a 1-to-1 replacement for McKinnon and boasts a vastly different skill set. McKinnon has emerged as the team’s third-down running back this season because of his ability in the passing game both as a receiver and a blocker. Those are both things that Jones has struggled with during the course of his career and one of the reasons that he has yet to see the field this season. The other reason is that he doesn’t play on special teams.
If Jones is made active against the Jaguars, expect Clyde Edwards-Helaire to slide into the third-down role. He has the second-most receiving yards among Chiefs running backs this season and three receiving touchdowns on the season. He also has allowed just a single pressure in 13 pass-blocking snaps. Jones would likely split early down work with Isiah Pacheco in this scenario. Will he be the spark that ignites a disappointing running game, though? After the start of his Chiefs career, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.