Jaguars face ‘benchmark’ game in trip to Kansas City

How will Jacksonville respond after big win last week over Raiders?

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Christian Kirk (13) celebrates with Marvin Jones Jr. (11) after Kirk scored a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) (Phelan M. Ebenhack, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars had one of their biggest comebacks in franchise history last week to shake a five-game losing streak and pocket a little momentum as they hit midseason.

How will the Jaguars respond after that win over the Raiders? It’s only one of their biggest tests of the regular season on deck.

Jacksonville erased a 17-point deficit last week and surged back in the second half for a 27-20 win. Can that victory be a launching point to something special?

Jacksonville (3-6) is a 9.5-point underdog against Kansas City, one of the most challenging environments in the NFL to play in. An upset over the Chiefs and electric quarterback Patrick Mahomes would be a turning point for the team entering the bye week.

“You can learn a lot. One, the character of your team. You’re on the road, hostile, crowd noise, all that. How we respond, too, after a win last weekend and building off of that,” coach Doug Pederson said. “This is a great opportunity for our guys to go in there and play a really good football team, well-coached team, disciplined football team. It’ll be a nice benchmark game for us to see where we’re at.”

Halfway through Pederson’s first season in Jacksonville, the team is trying to find its identity. Trevor Lawrence’s development has been up and down, but he’s coming off the biggest comeback win of his career.

The offense has found a big play back in Travis Etienne, who missed his rookie season with a Lisfranc injury. Etienne has rushed for 680 yards and has cracked the 100-yard mark in three straight games.

It’s one thing to beat the slumping Raiders at TIAA Bank Field. It’s another to go into Kansas City and face one of the league’s elite franchises in arguably the most difficult place in the league to play.

“It’s a big opportunity to go into Arrowhead Stadium, especially before the bye week, this is a huge game for us to get some more momentum. We’re excited to go play that game, and everything is focused on that now,” Lawrence said. “It’s how consistent can you be and keep stacking games like that, so it’s going to be good for us. Like I said, we really needed it. You look at our season, and it’s kind of that point in the season, halfway mark, you’ve got to winning some games.”

As has been the theme this season, the Jaguars have been in every game this year. That’s something that wasn’t the case under Urban Meyer in 2021. Their six losses have been by eight points or less. A good showing in Kansas City, even if it’s another loss, would show progress under Pederson at the bye week. Beating Mahomes in Kansas City would qualify as perhaps an even bigger upset than last year’s 9-6 win over the Bills. Buffalo was a 14.5-point favorite in that game.

Mahomes is not only a sensational passer, but he may even be better when he improvises.

“That’s the hardest thing. That’s what makes him special as a quarterback, the ability to do that,” Pederson said. “I know every defense that faces Mahomes probably preaches the same thing. You have to continue to finish. You’ve got to play to the whistle. Do what you can to try to get to him. Again, those are all the things that make him great and you just try to minimize as many of those plays as possible.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.