It’s finally playoff time again for the Kansas City Chiefs as they host the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional round.
The Jaguars are entering this game on a roll, winners of their last six games. They made an epic comeback against the Los Angeles Chargers in the wild-card round last week, erasing a 27-0 deficit and winning by a 31-30 final score. Jacksonville finished the regular season with a 9-8 record and winner of the AFC South.
The Chiefs will come into this matchup fresh off a bye week. They finished the regular season with five-straight victories and a 14-3 record, good for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Kansas City has a four-game winning streak in the divisional round, beating their opponents by an average of 12 points.
These two teams met back in Week 10 with the Chiefs coming out on top 27-17. Despite recovering an onside kick, winning time of possession and winning the turnover battle by a 3-0 margin, the Jaguars couldn’t overcome the Chiefs’ 486 yards of offense and five sacks on quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Check out our game plan preview from when these two teams met back in Week 10. There you’ll find more specifics about the Jags’ offensive and defensive schematics. Now, let’s dive into their divisional-round matchup.
Chiefs' defense vs. Jaguars' offense
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The Jaguars’ offense ranked in the top 10 of the NFL in passing and scoring during the regular season. Their big three are Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne and receiver Christian Kirk.
Lawrence ranked ninth among QBs in passing yards, Etienne had the second-highest yards per carry average among running backs with at least 200 carries, and Kirk was top 15 among receivers in yards and touchdowns.
The Chiefs’ defense must have answers for those three to have success. In their last matchup, the Chiefs sacked Lawrence five times and held him to 6.5 yards per completion, limiting big plays.
The K.C. defense should have more opportunities to get to Lawrence in this game against a beat-up Jacksonville offensive line. The Jags lost starting left tackle Cam Robinson to a season-ending knee injury and starters Brandon Scherff and Luke Fortner have been battling through injuries.
Etienne is coming off a big game against the Chargers where he had 121 total yards. The Chiefs did a nice job against him in Week 10, holding him to just 45 rushing yards. K.C. is well-equipped to defend the run, consistently ranking in the top 10 in run defense during the regular season.
Kirk may be the biggest point of emphasis for the Chiefs’ defense. In their first matchup, he racked up nine catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Kirk is an excellent route runner with a versatile skill set who lines up all over the field.
We could see rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie matchup against Kirk quite a bit in this game. Like Kirk, McDuffie is also versatile and has seen increased time in the slot as of late. Kirk is a savvy veteran who will try to expose McDuffie’s inexperience, but McDuffie has played well as a rookie.
An under-the-radar matchup to watch out for is cornerback L’Jarius Sneed against tight end, Evan Engram. Engram has had a handful of big games this year, including last week against the Chargers where he caught seven passes for 93 yards and a TD. Sneed is the only Chiefs’ DB with the size and physicality to match up with Engram.
Chiefs' offense vs. Jaguars' defense
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One of the main takeaways the Chiefs probably took from their Week 10 performance against Jacksonville was the lack of ball security. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw a fourth-quarter interception, running back Isiah Pacheco lost a fumble in the red zone and tight end Jody Fortson also lost a fumble.
If the Chiefs don’t commit those turnovers, they probably win the game in blowout fashion. The Jags are playing at a higher level now and will make the Chiefs pay for their mistakes this time around. Outside of the turnovers, however, the K.C. offense was explosive.
Mahomes threw for 331 yards and four TDs against the Jacksonville secondary. The Jags have struggled against the pass for most of the year, ranking 28th in pass defense during the regular season. One of the key factors to that has been the lack of a pass rush, ranking 26th in the league in sacks. That’s not a great recipe for success against the probable NFL MVP.
The Chiefs also ran the ball well in that game. Pacheco averaged 5.1 yards per carry and coach Andy Reid creatively got receiver Kadarius Toney involved with two carries for 33 yards. The Jags have been solid against the run, allowing just 4.2 yards per carry, but the Chiefs do a good job of opening up the running game with the pass.
The game plan for the Chiefs’ offense could be pretty similar to what it was the first time around, with an emphasis on ball security. Mahomes will likely look to spread the ball around as he did in Week 10 when he hit 10 different receivers. Expect some creativity with Toney and running back Jerick McKinnon as well.