In this series, we review the Kansas City Chiefs’ performance primarily using Next Gen Stats (NGS) — along with other advanced metrics that turn up during the season. For any questions on the statistics used in this series, please refer to our Football Analytics Glossary and Metrics page.
This time, we’ll look at some key matchups in Saturday’s AFC Divisional Round matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Christian Kirk in the slot vs. Trent McDuffie
Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed has been the Chiefs’ primary slot defender for quite a while — but since Week 16, Trent McDuffie has taken over the role. Acccording to Next Gen Stats, McDuffie has lined up in the slot for 77 snaps in those three games, while Sneed has been there for only four. In that period, McDuffie has allowed six catches for 49 yards and a touchdown — but if you exclude the fourth quarter of the 31-13 blowout against the Las Vegas Raiders, it’s just two catches for 10 yards and no touchdowns. Over these three games, McDuffie has completely locked down opposing slot receivers. We should expect that to continue during the playoffs.
His skills will be needed there, because Christian Kirk — the Jaguars’ best receiver — runs most of his snaps from the slot. On the season, he has 60 catches for 815 yards and four touchdowns from that alignment. Those numbers all rank second in the league from the slot.
Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawerence is likely to target Kirk early and often. Saturday’s game will be a big test for Kansas City’s first-round rookie.
Josh Allen vs. Orlando Brown Jr.
The Jaguars’ Josh Allen has been one of the NFL’s better edge rushers this year. While he’s collected just seven sacks, NextGenStats data says Allen has accounted for 21 quick pressures — those that take place within three seconds — ranking him seventh in the league. No other Jacksonville pass rusher has more than 10.
Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes has not done well against these quick pressures. He’s faced 167 this season — and in those reps, his EPA is -71.5 with seven interceptions and a passer rating of just 56. But when he hasn’t seen quick pressures, his EPA has been +201.6 with 30 touchdowns and only five interceptions — and a passer rating of 117.2.
According to NGS, Kansas City left tackle Orlando Brown has allowed just 12 pressures in the last seven weeks — and only two have been quick pressures. If Brown can keep Allen relatively quiet, Mahomes should have the time to pick apart the Jacksonville defense.
Chris Jones vs. Jaguars’ offensive interior
Now that he’s been named an Associated Press first-team All-Pro, everyone knows that Kansas City defensive tackle Chris Jones has turned in a great season. Per NGS, Jones has accounted for 77 pressures and 15 total sacks — both of which top the league among interior defensive linemen. When Jones is causing havoc in the backfield, the Chiefs’ defense is playing at its best.
ESPN’s Seth Walder constructed a chart showing just how dominant Jones has been this season. The defensive tackle should definitely be in the conversation for defensive player of the year.
Pass rush wins (x) by sacks (y), for the 2022 regular season.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) January 19, 2023
(ESPN / NFL Next Gen Stats) pic.twitter.com/RwdaSGQegi
Jacksonville’s interior line — guards Tyler Shatley and Brandon Scherff, plus center Luke Fortner — will have the responsibility of stopping Jones on Saturday. Per Pro Football Focus, this trio rates below average on pass blocking — and both Scherff and Fortner rank well below average at their positions. Even worse for the Jaguars, both have been limited with injuries this week. In the Week 10 game against Jacksonville, Jones had 1.5 sacks — and defensive tackle Khalen Saunders added a sack of his own from the interior.
Expect Jones to make an impact early and often on Saturday.