AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR NFL PREVIEW Sun: Kansas City Chiefs @ Jacksonville Jaguars

I suspect that Chiefs quarterback isn’t aware that his equine namesake Showtime Mahomes won at Musselburgh last night but given that the human version of Mahomes enters this game 0-1 he would take a similar gritty victory after the reigning Super Bowl champions were defeated at home in Week 1 by the resurgent Lions.

It’s true that the Chiefs were missing important pieces on both sides of the ball with Mahomes favourite receiver tight end Travis Kelce out with a knee injury and all-pro defensive tackle Chris Jones still at that point holding out for a new contract, a situation that is now resolved.

In an AFC Conference that is stacked with talented teams their opposition today included the Chiefs really can’t afford to fall to 0-2. The Chiefs are looking to avoid becoming only the fifth defending Super Bowl champion to start a season 0-2. Of the previous four, only one made the playoffs, but that just happened to be the 1993 Cowboys, who went on to win their second straight Super Bowl.

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This will be the third time that the Chiefs and Jaguars have met since last November with both the two previous contests being at the Chiefs Arrowhead Stadium with the home side taking both contests 27-17 on the first occasion and 27-20 on the second.

In last season’s two dates with the Jags defence last season Patrick Mahomes racked up 526 passing yards a 6:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and wasn’t sacked once. If he turns in numbers like that again then the Jaguars will be in trouble and it’s Jacksonville pass defence that’s been the weak link. Remarkably, this will be the first game of Mahomes career under .500. He’s 13-3 straight up after a loss, with every win by at least three and an average winning margin of 15.0 PPG. The Chiefs don’t lose often, and when they do, they typically respond immediately.

The biggest plus for the Chiefs on offence is the fact that Mahomes No1 target and receiver Travis Kelce is back, and the Jaguars will have to work out how to handle the big tight end who had 20 catches for 179 yards and three touchdowns in the two meetings last season. The key to keeping Kelce from doing too much damage is limiting his yards after the catch. He had the third-most yards after catch in the NFL last season (643).

Without Kelce against the Lions the Chiefs really spread the ball around through the air targeting seven different receivers but that just led them to a lack of cohesion, and they certainly lacked their normal discipline on offence. The chief culprit for slipshod play was wide receiver Kadarius Toney who was targeted five times and managed to drop four of those targets, there were eight dropped balls in all, that’s the most drops in any Chiefs game since Mahomes took over as starting quarterback. The rest of the receiving corps also had their travails, Skyy Moore who was touted for a breakout season wasn’t targeted until the third quarter and finished without a reception. Marquez Valdes-Scantling was another who failed to attract much attention in the passing game whilst the rest of the receiving corps also operated at a low volume.

The run game of the Chiefs was also a dichotomy to work out with all three running back playing different roles, and it’s hard to work out who will be given the primary workload. Isiah Pacheco, Jerrick McKinnon and Clyde Edwards-Hilaire all played their part with McKinnon looking the most likely to be used in scoring situations.

The Jaguars whilst winning in Week 1 were not particularly convincing against a Colts side that has low expectations this season and it should be remembered that Jacksonville entered the 4th quarter trailing to a rookie quarterback and to a team with a brand new coaching staff and really survived on turnovers with the Colts giving up a fumble TD, an interception, and a turnover on downs over their final five possessions.

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Kelce coming back for the Chiefs on offence is a major plus and so is the comeback of Chris Jones on the Kansas City defence especially against a Jags team that has a much depleted offensive line. Jaguars All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff was limited at practice Thursday and is dealing with an ankle issue. He is looking likely to play but his backup is on injured reserve and left tackle Cam Robinson is still serving the remainder of his four-game suspension. To make matters worse, starting centre Luke Fortner was limited this week with an ankle issue, Jacksonville only have eight active O-linemen on its roster and protecting quarterback Trevor Lawrence could tough if Jones is on the prowl. This will be Jones first game since the Super Bowl but he’s a dangerous character and has always played well against the Jags. He had 1.5 sacks of Lawrence during a regular-season game last year and even had the only interception and touchdown of his career against a pre-Lawrence Jacksonville team in 2018.

The Jaguars are going to have to protect Lawrence if they are to generate the type and volume of offence that is usually needed to beat the Chiefs who are sure to create some scoreboard pressure in a game that has a +50 point expected total. In essence, Lawrence is going to have to match Mahomes blow for blow, so the question is behind a below-par offensive line can he operate effectively and does he have the skill position players to help assist him.

There’s no doubt that Lawrence is getting better and better at the position and with the addition of wide receiver Calvin Ridley they have a player capable of exploiting any defects in the Chiefs defence. After a year out of the game Ridley could not have had a better Jags debut last week with 8 catches on 11 targets for 101 yards and a touchdown.

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In Week 1, admittedly without Jones the Chiefs looked vulnerable to wide receivers allowing 151 yards total to the Lions two main WR’s in Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds. Lawrence will face pressure but if he copes and avoids that then Ridley has a mismatch against the Chiefs secondary. Two other members of the Jags receiving group also had big games against the Chiefs last year Christian Kirk had 105yards and two touchdowns back in Week 10 and Zay Jones had 83 yards in the playoff loss.

On the ground Travis Etienne still looks to hold the keys to the car over the wonderfully and aptly named Tank Bigsby who looks as though he’s going to be given the goal line work but wasn’t present at all in the passing game.

The Chiefs offence played quickly to kick off the season, if not effectively. Their contest with the Lions resulted in 132 combined snaps and the Jaguars although not at that level did play at a respectable rate and we should see them quicken up on Sunday against a Chiefs defence that typically faces relatively elevated pass rates and did again in Week 1.

All of that means that this could well turn into a game with plenty of scoring opportunities as the Chiefs attempt to get back to parity and the Jaguars seek to put one of their main AFC rivals firmly behind the eight ball.


BACK Kansas City Chiefs to win by 1-10 points 1pt at 6/4 (⭐ ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Calvin Ridley over +72.5 receiving yards 1pt at 10/11 (⭐ ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Travis Kelce to score two plus TDs 1pt at 4/1 (⭐ ? CLICK TO BET NOW)

PROFIT/LOSS (SEPT 2023): LOSS -0.21 points



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