Sunday’s matchup between the Jaguars and Chiefs pits two teams heading in opposite directions. The Chiefs have played well, even in their road losses to the Colts and Texans, while the Jaguars have lost their top two quarterbacks to injury and haven’t played well in their three losses.
Here are the key matchups for Sunday’s game.
When Kansas City has the ball
Kansas City enters the game with the top-ranked rushing offense and faces off against a Jaguars defense that ranks 19th in the league at stopping the run. After their best rushing effort of the season against the Texans, expect the Chiefs to give the Jaguars a heavy dose of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones.
The Jaguars also have issues with covering opposing tight ends. Against the Titans and the Colts, Jacksonville allowed big games to both Bo Scaife and Dallas Clark, respectively. This should create opportunities for rookie Tony Moeaki in the passing game, so long as Chiefs left tackle Brandon Albert can keep standout defensive end Aaron Kampman off of quarterback Matt Cassel’s blindside.
When Jacksonville has the ball
Neither starting quarterback David Garrard (concussion) nor backup Trent Edwards (thumb) has taken a single snap this week in preparation for the Chiefs. While it remains a remote possibility that Garrard could play if the doctor’s clear him on Friday, he hasn’t watched any film on the Chiefs defense this week and since he hasn’t been at practice all week, he would need a crash course on the Jaguars game plan for Sunday.
What appears most likely is that journeyman Todd Bouman will start and play in his first regular season game since 2005. Regardless of who starts at quarterback, the fate of the Jaguars will rest on the legs of running back Maurice Jones-Drew against the Chiefs' fifth-ranked rush defense.
Linebackers Derrick Johnson and Jovan Belcher figure to play a large role in slowing Jones-Drew down, as the Jaguars run a vast majority of their rushing plays between guards Justin Smiley and Uche Nwaneri.
One area where the Jaguars could present issues for the Chiefs on Sunday is in the return game. Returners Tiquan Underwood and Deji Karim have both performed well on kickoff returns, with each producing a 50-plus yard return so far this season.
Unless Jacksonville head coach Jack Del Rio has a secret weapon up his sleeve at quarterback, it would appear that the Jaguars offense will be a one-man show on the back of Jones-Drew on Sunday. Expect the Chiefs defense to load up to stop the run and try to force the Jaguars into third and long situations forcing them to throw with whoever starts at quarterback for them.
The Chiefs offense should be able to establish the running game and take some shots throwing the ball against a Jaguars defense that has allowed more than 263 yards per game through the air.