JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After snapping a five-game losing streak, the Jaguars’ “So, what? Now what?” mantra will be put to the stiffest test of the season as Jacksonville travels to Kansas City to face Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.
The Chiefs (6-2) are tied for the best record in the AFC and despite the departure of speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill in the offseason, Kansas City’s offense, and its quarterback, have not lost a step.
“It’s a huge challenge,” Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson said. “He does a great job of ad-libbing on the run out of the pocket. He’s hard to sack, hard to get to, the ball comes out fast and it can come out anywhere. That’s what makes him special.”
Through eight games this season, Mahomes is completing 66.2% of his passes, one-tenth ahead of his career pace. He has thrown 21 touchdowns and has six interceptions and is on pace to throw for more than 5,500 yards which would break Peyton Manning’s NFL record of 5,477.
In short, Mahomes is better than ever.
That’s a scary thought for opposing defenses. The Jaguars rank in the middle of the NFL in most passing defensive stats but have been playing without cornerback Shaquill Griffin for the past two games due to a back injury. Starting safety Rayshawn Jenkins was placed in concussion protocols on Sunday so he may not play against the Chiefs.
Then there is the issue of Arrowhead Stadium, one of the toughest places to play in the NFL.
Pederson knows it well. He spent three seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Chiefs under Andy Reid.
“It’s one of those benchmark games,” Pederson said. “You’re going against a team that’s been one of the top in the AFC and obviously won a Super Bowl here recently. It’s a challenge to go on the road, it’s a great place to play, it’s loud, the weather, it’s going to be a little, little cold, 40 degrees -ish, it’s going to be a different environment for us. We don’t make any excuses. We just go play and try to gauge where we are against a football team that’s pretty good.”
As far as the challenge for the Jaguars’ offense, Kansas City is in the middle of the pack in most of the key defensive categories, but over the past three weeks, the Chiefs have held the opposition to 20 points per game.
“They’re really well coached, they do a lot of different things pressure-wise,” Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. They’ve got guys moving around all over the place. And I think they do a good job of changing up the look.”
Entering a game against a team quarterbacked by Mahomes gets the attention of the opposing quarterback. Lawrence knows that it’s a possibility that the Jaguars may find themselves in a shootout.
“This is a team where you understand who you’re playing. You understand who’s on the other side of the ball,” Lawrence said. ”I’ve got all the faith in the world in our defense, but you do understand the explosiveness of their offense and you know we’ve got to play a great game. It’s that way every week but especially this week.”