JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars open the 2019 season Sunday when they host the Kansas City Chiefs. Last year when the two teams met, KC dominated in a 30-14 Chiefs' win. If the Jaguars are to turn the tables on the defending AFC West champions, here are four key areas they must focus on:
1. Ball control - The best way to counteract the Chiefs' prolific offense is to keep them on the sidelines. That means that the Jaguars must convert third-downs, win the possession battle and dictate the pace of the game. That goes to the running game which makes Leonard Fournette one of the most important pieces to the Jaguars formula Sunday. If Fournette can move the ball both on the ground and as a receiver out of the backfield, the Jaguars should be able to wear down the Kansas City defense.
2. Protect Foles - I could probably use this as a key all season long, but it is especially important this week. With the Jaguars starting their third option, Will Richardson at left tackle and rookie Jawaan Taylor at right tackle, keeping Foles upright against the likes of Chris Jones and Frank Clark will be a huge key. If the Kansas City pass rush that tied for the league lead in sacks a year ago get the Jaguars in obvious passing situations, it could be a long day for the Jacksonville offense.
3. Contain Kelce - My biggest concern when it comes to Jaguars defense stopping the KC offense is the tight end, Travis Kelce. Last year, Kelce was a first-team All-Pro after a 103 catch, 1,336 season that included 10 touchdown receptions. With the Jaguars trotting out a new starting safety tandem of Jerrod Wilson and Ronnie Harrison and a rookie outside linebacker, Quincy Williams, there will be a major experience gap between Kelce and whoever is covering him most of the day.
4. Use the heat - In the second half, heat indexes are expected to rise to 104 F which means that if the Jaguars can keep the Chiefs' defense on the field in the first half, they'll have a better time running the ball as the game goes on. I grew up in Kansas City, and I can tell you first hand that it gets hot in the summer there. But it's a different thing than we experience in Jacksonville. It was a factor against the Patriots last season and it can be a factor against the Chiefs this season. But only if the Jaguars possess the ball and dictate the pace of the game.