When: Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET
Line: Chiefs -9, O/U 52
These two teams faced off in November, with the Chiefs defeating the Jaguars, 27-17. Jacksonville’s defense struggled to stop Patrick Mahomes, who threw for 331 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. That Jaguars defense has been playing some good ball as of late, however. They scored the game-winning touchdown against the Titans in Week 18 to earn a playoff berth, and then held the Chargers to just three points in the second half on Saturday night while they waited on the offense to shape up after a nightmare start.
It says something about the Jags that they were able to bounce back and complete the third-largest comeback in NFL postseason history, and Lawerence deserves a ton of credit. On his first seven drives, he completed 5 of 18 passes for 35 yards and four interceptions. On his last five drives, he completed 23 of 29 passes for 253 yards and four touchdowns to pull out a 31-30 win.
Looking forward to this next weekend, the Jaguars offense can’t afford a slow start vs. what is statistically the top offense in the league. Hopefully, we are in for a shootout, with both offenses trading blows.
Why the Chiefs will win: Patrick Mahomes. Andy Reid. Travis Kelce. There are other people involved here, and we can say a lot more, but these three are the biggest reasons the Chiefs will be deserved strong favorites. Over the course of the regular season, the Chiefs had the most efficient offense in football, and it wasn’t even close (0.17 expected points added per play, with the Bills next at 0.12). The offensive line deserves credit for that number too.
Chris Jones has had a magnificent season. His 79 pass rush wins were 26 more than any other defensive tackle. But this defense overall is simply average. And that’s all it needs to be most weeks. Offense is key to championships, and the Chiefs have the better one in this game. Yes, Lawrence has had a nice season, and he was sensational in the second half of Saturday’s comeback against the Chargers. But let’s be real: Lawrence isn’t on Mahomes’ level, at least not right now.
Matt Nagy spent the past season in Kansas City working as a senior assistant/quarterbacks coach. It was a homecoming of sorts for Nagy, who worked on Andy Reid’s Chiefs coaching staff from 2013-2017. Nagy started as the Chiefs QBs coach, then was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2016. He was also credited for being a proponent of the Chiefs drafting Patrick Mahomes in 2017.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
As the master of bye week preparation based on his 27-4 record after a bye, Andy Reid has spent extra time in the lab concocting a game plan that could put Patrick Mahomes and Co. in their fourth straight AFC Championship Game.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: WIDE RECEIVER JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER
Smith-Schuster signed an incentive-laden, one-year deal for 2022 that paid him close to nothing in base value but included a ton of upside that he took major advantage of down the stretch. The contract proved to be a big win for all parties once it was all said and done, with Smith-Schuster earning $1.5 million for his 78 receptions, another $1.5 million for his 933 receiving yards and another $1.5 million for playing more than 65% of offensive snaps.
Despite entering his seventh NFL season in 2023, Smith-Schuster will still be just 26 years old for the majority of the year, and the Chiefs will likely lose fellow wide receiver Mecole Hardman to free agency. Second-round rookie wide receiver Skyy Moore didn’t progress throughout his rookie season quite as Kansas City hoped, so it would make sense to keep a reliable target over the middle in the fold, especially with tight end Travis Kelce getting up there in age.
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Loser: NBC’s Backup Booth
The game was a thriller, an iconic comeback in front of a frenzied crowd featuring a career-defining performance from one of the game’s young stars. But Michaels and Dungy were not thrilled. As Jacksonville brought the dream closer and closer to reality with highlight after highlight, Michaels struggled to bring his enthusiasm meter up to a 4.
Dungy is nowhere to be heard on most of the highlight calls, apparently believing that big plays need 30 or 40 seconds to marinate. Michaels seemed slightly annoyed by the game-winning field goal, like he didn’t like the look of the food when the waiter brought it out and wanted to send it back to the kitchen even though it was exactly what he ordered.
Brady said he was going to go home and try to get a good night of sleep, but beyond that he offered no timeline for when he might make a decision about his future. Last year, he retired and then returned little more than a month later. This time, he said, it would be “one day at a time, truly.”
And then, Brady was asked if he had any emotions as he left the field beyond those that he usually has at the end of the season.
“Just feels like the end of the season,” he began. And then he continued, unbidden, thanking the media. “I love this organization. It’s a great place to be. Thank you, everybody, for welcoming me.”
He went on to acknowledge the media that has covered him.
“I’m very thankful for the respect and I hope I gave the same back,” he said.
“[Huntley] should have never been in that situation,” Dobbins said after the season-ending defeat. “I didn’t get a single carry. I didn’t get a single carry. He should’ve never been in that situation. I believe I would have put it in the end zone, again.”
To the clear chagrin of Dobbins, he wasn’t on the field during the crucial third-and-goal play from the Bengals 1-yard line with 11:39 to go in the fourth quarter, nor did he have a carry on that doomed Ravens drive. Gus Edwards was on the field and the ball was in Huntley’s hands for the game-changing play, which concluded with a monumental swing as Baltimore went from the doorstep of a go-ahead TD to giving up a 98-yard score to Hubbard that held as the game-winner.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
November 18, 2020: The Chiefs signed free-agent cornerback Deandre Baker. After playing in 10 matchups — with 21 tackles (17 solo) and a sack — he broke his left femur. He was placed on the injured list in January, then re-signed in February but ultimately released in August of 2022.
September 27, 2021: Kansas City signed free-agent wide receiver Josh Gordon. He appeared in 12 games, collecting five receptions for 32 yards and a touchdown. He was sent down to the Chiefs’ practice squad in late January. Re-signed in the offseason, he lasted until the next-to-last 2022 cutdown.
October 27, 2022: Veach sent the Chiefs’ 2023 third-round compensatory pick and sixth-round selection to the New York Giants for former first-round wide receiver Kadarius Toney. In his second year in the league, Toney was considered a gifted young player who had never become the receiver the Giants had envisioned — mostly by missing multiple games with injuries. Over 12 games in New York, he had 41 receptions for 420 yards. He had already missed five 2022 games with a hamstring injury.
If your initial thought was that Toney would be Josh Gordon 2.0, you were not alone. But then... he played.