When the Chiefs and Jaguars last met in November, Kansas City cruised to a double-digit victory. The gap between the teams couldn’t have been any larger. The Chiefs were an established contender; the Jags were still figuring out who they were under first-year coach Doug Pederson.
But that was then, this is now. This Jacksonville team in January? It’s one that’s red-hot, riding the momentum from one of the most miraculous comebacks in league history.
That fact makes Jaguars-Chiefs Part II an exciting matchup on paper.
Top-seeded Kansas City (14-3), coming off a wild-card bye week, will host fourth-seeded Jacksonville (10-8) Saturday at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium (4:30 p.m. ET) in the divisional round for a spot in the AFC Championship Game. It marks the first-ever postseason matchup between the teams.
The Chiefs, who ended the regular season on a five-game winning streak, have the benefit of rest (they last played Jan. 7). This season, they won their seventh straight division title — tied for the second-longest streak in league history. And Kansas City is looking to advance to its fifth straight AFC title game, a contest it has never failed to reach since Patrick Mahomes became the starting quarterback in 2018.
The Chiefs had the NFL’s highest-scoring and most efficient offense in 2022, ranking first in total yards, yards per play, points and total EPA (expected points added). Considered the MVP favorite, Mahomes has thrived this season despite the absence of superstar wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who was traded to the Dolphins in March.
Since last playing in Kansas City, the Jaguars have won seven of eight games, including their last six. They overcame a 27-0 hole to beat the Chargers 31-30 with a walk-off field goal in the wild-card round last week, the third-largest comeback in NFL playoff history.
Jaguars shock Chargers by erasing a 27-0 deficit
Shannon Sharpe explains why this game was more about the Chargers than the Jaguars.
After losing six games by one possession in the first half of the season, Jacksonville has shown that it’s never out of game. Since November started, the Jags have posted five comeback victories — against the Raiders (Week 9), Ravens (Week 12), Cowboys (Week 15), Titans (Week 18) and Chargers (wild card).
While not on Mahomes’ level, Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence is quickly becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the AFC. He showcased his mental toughness in the wild-card game by responding to his four-interception first half with five consecutive scoring drives to end the game, including four straight touchdowns. From Weeks 9-18, he ranked first in the NFL in passer rating (104.6 passer rating), second in completion percentage (69.7) and third in interception percentage (0.7). He’s supported by what has been one of the league’s most productive pass-catching trios (receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, and tight end Evan Engram) and a strong offensive line, as well as a rising defense.
Jaguars-Chiefs also pits two head coaches who are very close as Andy Reid has been one of Doug Pederson’s biggest mentors. Pederson was a backup quarterback for the Packers when Reid was an assistant coach in Green Bay in the late 1990s, and Pederson was on Reid’s staffs with the Eagles and Chiefs.
Matchup to watch: Chiefs DT Chris Jones vs. Jaguars RG Brandon Scherff
The Chiefs defense has largely been average, but its pass rush has been elite. That starts with All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones, who tied his career-high of 15.5 sacks in 2022. He must get going for Kansas City to rattle Lawrence and Jacksonville’s offense.
Jones figures to have some tough one-on-one battles with Scherff, a five-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro in his time with the Commanders (2015-21). Scherff, who signed a big free-agent deal with the Jaguars in the spring, has been very productive and the leader of the offensive-line room in his first season in Jacksonville.
X-factor: Jaguars RB Travis Etienne Jr.
Etienne had the game-icing run in the wild-card round against the Chargers, the 25-yard gain on Pederson’s brilliant fourth-and-1 call with 1:28 left that set up the game-winning field goal. The former first-round pick has rushed for more than 100 yards in three of the Jaguars’ past five games. Having him heavily involved makes Lawrence and his trio of pass-catchers all the more dangerous, presenting defenses with a pick-your-poison predicament.
Mahomes: “We want to win the Super Bowl”
Nick Wright, Chris Broussard and Kevin Wildes discuss Patrick Mahomes and the Jaguars-Chiefs AFC divisional round matchup.
It’s become increasingly hard to bet against the Jaguars, but the Chiefs are just too good. Kansas City has so much firepower offensively that it feels inevitable that it will jump out to a lead early. And despite the fact that Jacksonville is never out of a game, it’s hard to envision Mahomes losing in a home playoff game for the second year in a row. This game should come down to the wire, though.
Chiefs 30, Jaguars 26
Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.
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