Kansas City will put its unbeaten home record on the line this afternoon in the first of a pivotal two-game home stand. The Jaguars enter Arrowhead banged up, but still have plenty of play-makers and a defense known around the league for its physicality.
Here are five areas to watch today as the Chiefs attempt to further separate themselves from the rest of the AFC West…
1) Quick on the QB
Whether its Trent Edwards or Todd Bouman, Jacksonville’s starting quarterback won’t have much experience in guiding the Jaguars offense. Edwards was claimed off waivers from Buffalo just a few weeks ago and Bouman hasn’t thrown a NFL pass since 2005.
A quick start is imperative on Sunday. It’s the Chiefs first home game in a month. Stimulating the Arrowhead crowd with an early sack, three-and-out, or turnover could go a long way in creating a very uncomfortable environment for Jacksonville’s starter. Make a statement early and don’t give Jacksonville’s new starter any early confidence.
2) Stop the Run/MJD
Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew will be the most dangerous player on the field for Jacksonville on Sunday. The Jags run the football over 60% of the time and that’s with QB David Garrard as a starter. Without Garrard, there’s no question that Jacksonville will ask MJD to carry their offensive efforts.
The Chiefs win this game if they stop the run and force Jacksonville to make someone other than MJD beat them. Jones-Drew also needs to be accounted for in the receiving game out of the backfield. If Kansas City can shut down Jones-Drew the same way that they took San Francisco’s Frank Gore out of the ballgame, Arrowhead will be a fun place to be.
3) Watch TJ
The Chiefs need Jackson to be a part of this defense. He could have played last weekend, but the Chiefs decided that one more week would be better before asking Jackson to resume duty as a two-gap player snap-in and snap-out. Jackson was a major part of Kansas City’s defensive success against San Diego and Kansas City needs him to play at that same level as the club makes a run for an AFC West title.
4) Passing Game Growth
Kansas City’s offensive game plan isn’t going to change much from week to week. Boasting the league’s top-ranked rushing attack, the Chiefs are going to attempt to establish the run each and every Sunday. But a balanced attack, like the one we saw in Houston, generally leads to bigger offensive outputs.
Last week, the Chiefs were able to exploit the Texans’ 32nd-ranked pass defense and, as a result, had their best rushing day in the process. Jacksonville offers another good matchup with the league’s 28th-ranked pass defense. Passing efficiency and overall offensive numbers similar to last week’s shouldn’t lead to another loss.
5) Turnover Trend
Jacksonville enters this one with a horrendous turnover ratio of negative seven through six games. Only one NFL team has a turnover ratio worse than the Jaguars. With Kansas City outscoring opponents 27-0 in points off turnovers this season, another day of turnovers in the negative should be enough to doom Jacksonville as they swim through the Sea of Red.