The Kansas City Chiefs should be heading into Week 10 with plenty of confidence. In recent weeks, they’ve faced some of the league’s best defenses, taken their best shots and come out on top of the AFC West — within striking distance of the AFC’s top seed.
Sunday’s opponent — the Jacksonville Jaguars — has been close this season, losing five one-score games before defeating the Las Vegas Raiders 27-20 on Sunday. They can run the ball — and in Trevor Lawrence, they have a promising young quarterback who is still trying to put it all together. The Jaguars’ defense features speed, which will be quite a contrast to the power Kansas City faced against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday Night Football. On paper, this should be a game the Chiefs will win comfortably — but the AFC South tends to play them tough.
Here are some Chiefs who could be trending as we head into this Sunday’s game.
Kadarius Toney: When Kansas City made the trade for the former New York Giants wide receiver, we immediately started wondering what role he’d actually play. Would he supplant Mecole Hardman — or someone else? Was this purely a play for 2023, without much benefit for 2022? We found out quickly against the Titans, when Toney caught a pass on the game’s opening play. He finished with two catches on nine snaps. As Ron Kopp and Nate Christensen noted on this week’s Arrowhead Pride “Out of Structure” podcast, Toney displayed the rare quickness and change-of-direction skills that the team has been missing without wideout Tyreek Hill. Head coach Andy Reid confirmed that the goal had been to get Toney about 10 snaps in his first game and increase it from there. It’s clear that the Chiefs have a plan for Toney this season — and against the Jaguars, he could get a chance to get loose.
Joshua Williams: Whether it was due to injury or results, Williams saw action above fellow Day 3 rookie Jaylen Watson against Tennessee. It’s clear that the Chiefs will have to keep blitzing in order to create adequate pressure, so they’ll need sticky coverage from their corners. With Trent McDuffie looking like a potential lockdown guy on one side, Williams (with his ability to stick with bigger receivers) could be helpful for a defense that needs to leave corners without very much safety help. The Jacksonville passing game presents a little different challenge as compared to Week 9, but we should watch to see if Williams continues to be the guy who steps up.
Carlos Dunlap: Even when there’s been inconsistency around him, the veteran defensive end has been a steady presence on the Chiefs' defensive line. Sunday’s game against the Titans was probably his best game of the season. He filled in nicely for Frank Clark, finishing with one and a half sacks plus another tackle for loss. With Clark sitting out again this Sunday, Dunlap will get plenty of opportunities to take down Trevor Lawrence (who has been inconsistent) and Travis Etienne (who has been great).
Others trending in the right direction: cornerbacks Trent McDuffie and L’Jarius Sneed, wide receivers Marcus Kemp and Mecole Hardman, tight end Noah Gray and defensive tackle Khalen Saunders.
Trey Smith: It’s not fun putting the promising second-year player on this list, but it’s been a tough year for Smith. Maybe it’s the lingering effects of the injury he suffered early in the season. Maybe teams are starting to attack his weaknesses more. Either way, there have been too many issues at right guard thus far. When it can actually move the ball, Smith is the guy the team loves to run behind. But the holes have been sparse; the backs haven’t been getting anywhere. Even with fullback Michael Burton — who is usually automatic — the team has been struggling to convert short yardage. Watch to see if this matchup allows Smith to get back to dominating defenders more often. The Chiefs’ offense needs him to be himself.
Skyy Moore: The rookie wideout has the talent; there will be bright days ahead. But so far, Moore hasn’t been a reliable target for quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He’s getting the snaps, but when opportunities for receptions come his way, something is always just a bit off. The team will be patient with him — and we should also be patient. But it sure looks like we’ll have to wait a while to see how Moore can help the team. That’s particularly frustrating — since we can already see it with Toney.
Isiah Pacheco: There’s no doubt: for a seventh-round rookie, Pacheco has been good. But has he actually been good? When the offense has been clicking (against the Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Francisco 49ers), Pacheco has averaged about ten carries for 50-plus rushing yards. In the other five games, Pacheco has averaged under three carries for under 10 yards rushing. At this point, he’s not a factor in the passing game, either. The Chiefs are struggling to find the right combination at running back; it’s not yet clear that Pacheco is the answer. Some of the problem is clearly with the blocking — but if the Chiefs can’t find a way to get Pacheco going, they might have to rethink the rotation.
Others trending in the wrong direction: linebacker Leo Chenal, placekicker Harrison Butker, wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling and defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi
Value (sleeper) pick: Jody Fortson
Like Moore last week, Fortson is frequently on this list— and for good reason. His unique ability to make contested catches in the red zone adds a really valuable element to the Kansas City offense. Fortson has been recovering from an injury, but has finally returned to practice; he could be back on the field against the Jaguars. For the Kansas City passing offense to be at full strength, they have to have multiple weapons and be unpredictable. In recent weeks, the team has added back-shoulder throws to JuJu Smith-Schuster and Justin Watson. Why not try to get Fortson back into the fold with some jump balls and back-shoulder attempts of his own?