The best quarterback in the league leading a dynasty, arguably the best head coach in the league, and a budding rival who bounced Jacksonville in the playoffs the season before.
Yes, this describes the Kansas City Chiefs — the Jaguars’ Week 2 opponent — but it also describes the team Jacksonville played in its 2018 home opener.
In 2018, a Week 2 matchup against the Patriots was the most important home opener the Jaguars had in years. Now, their tilt against the Chiefs is just as significant.
During the 2017 season, Jacksonville came out of nowhere. The Jaguars went 10-6 a year after a three-win season to earn their first playoff berth in a decade. They beat the Buffalo Bills. Then they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Jaguars were one game away from the Super Bowl; the only thing in their way — the New England Patriots. Jacksonville had a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, but future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady led a comeback to rip the AFC title from the Jaguars’ hands.
Then the Jags got their chance at redemption in 2018. After their best season in years, Jacksonville beat the New York Giants in Week 1 and met the Patriots in Week 2. This time, Duval came out on top; the Jaguars won, 31-20.
Last season, Jacksonville had a similar, yet more disappointing start to its season. However, the team turned its year around and found itself with a playoff spot.
The Jaguars beat the Los Angeles Chargers and found themselves slated to play the AFC’s next top dog: the Chiefs. Like in 2018, Jacksonville found itself on the losing side; it fell to Kansas City 27-20 to end its Super Bowl aspirations.
If history repeats itself, the Jaguars would find themselves on top.
The gravity of the game speaks for itself. Jacksonville has its shot at redemption. And it will need top performances from its best players.
The Chiefs are coming off a one-point loss to the Detroit Lions in the first game of the NFL season. If there’s one team that has proven it can bounce back from anything, it’s the Chiefs.
However, this Jaguars team looks to be much better than the one that got revenge over New England. The 2023 Jaguars have what figures to be one of the league’s best offenses, led by one of the best coaches, conducted by one of the best quarterbacks. And the defense showed it can give offenses trouble in Jacksonville’s win over the Indianapolis Colts in their first game of the season.
A win would mean everything to Duval. Jacksonville’s fans were disappointed but understanding of the Jaguars’ Divisional Round exit at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl champions. Now, the fans could see the Jaguars secure an upset victory over the team that ended their season. And the win would be in front of the home crowd.
Regardless of the result Sunday, the Jaguars have the opportunity to prove even more. In 2018, Jacksonville went downhill after its win over the Patriots. The team won only one of its next nine games and regressed significantly compared to the year before.
This time, the Jaguars have stars in all the right places. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence is unquestionably one of the best passers in the league. He’s got receivers Calvin Ridley and Christian Kirk, running back Travis Etienne Jr., and tight end Evan Engram to make plays for him. The defense also appears to have taken steps forward since last year.
Last year’s success wasn’t a fluke. And a win over the reigning Super Bowl champs who knocked Jacksonville out of the playoffs would cement the Jaguars as one of the best teams in the NFL.