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5 things to watch as the Chiefs play the Jaguars in Week 2

Kansas City is looking to avoid an 0-2 start with a tough road game in Jacksonville.

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AFC Divisional Playoffs - Jacksonville Jaguars v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

As the Kansas City Chiefs travel to Florida for Sunday’s Week 2 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, they are in a position in which they rarely find themselves: they’ve started the season 0-1 for the first time since 2014 — and need to avoid falling into the same 0-2 hole that they did that season. It ended up being the last time the Chiefs missed the playoffs.

That wasn’t unusual. Since 2002, just 10% of 0-2 teams have made the postseason. As odds-defying as Kansas City can be, the team’s players and coaches don’t want to put themselves in that position; to them, this rematch of last year’s AFC Divisional round game is very important.

According to DraftKings SportsBook, the Chiefs are 3.5-point favorites in Sunday’s game.

Here are five things to watch as Kansas City tries to even its record to 1-1.

1. Redemption for the Chiefs’ young pass-catchers

NFL: Detroit Lions at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

After a very forgettable Week 1 performance, there is a lot of pressure on wide receivers Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore to prove they should be featured in Kansas City’s offense.

Even though he had little to show for it, Toney proved he could get open in the scheme. In the season opener, he tied the for the team lead in targets — despite playing only 25% of the offensive snaps. After missing the entire preseason, it’s clear that he was rusty. Drops aren’t usually a statistic that is useful for forecasting, so it’s very possible Toney ends up right back in the mix as an important playmaker.

Moore’s quiet day was a little more confusing — and almost discouraging. He led the team in snaps, but quarterback Patrick Mahomes targeted him only rarely — and otherwise hardly looked at him. When he talked to reporters on Thursday, Moore blamed a “lack of focus” in the wide receiver room — which may have trickled down to impact the confidence of the coaching staff (and quarterback) to get him the ball.

Here. tight end Travis Kelce’s return will be a key; he has been limited all week in practice, but is expected to play. Week 1’s sloppiness may simply be proof that Moore isn’t ready to be a primary target — but Week 2 could show us that he can produce as a complement to Kelce.

2. Chris Jones’ impact

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Jacksonville Jaguars v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Without defensive tackle Chris Jones in in the season opener, Kansas City had the league’s fourth-lowest team pressure rate — and was also one of only seven teams earning one (or fewer) sacks from their pressures.

That’s a far cry from where the team finished last season, when Jones’ dominant year helped rank it second in sacks and fifth in pressures. With his contract dispute resolved — at least for now — Jones is slated to play. He will be facing a Jacksonville offensive line that is dealing with ankle injuries for both right guard Brandon Scherff and center Luke Fortner; each was limited in his week’s practices.

With only a week of practices under his belt, it will be interesting to see how the Chiefs deploy Jones. On Thursday, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo would not name a snap count limit for his defensive lineman — but don’t be surprised if Jones is often sidelined on running plays. If he’s fatiguing quickly, that will be more of a problem against the run.

3. Pass protection

NFL: JAN 21 AFC Divisional Playoffs - Jaguars at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In last year’s playoff matchup, the Jaguars pressured Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes on 41% of his dropbacks — including the one that gave him the ankle sprain he had to overcome for the rest of the postseason.

That may have been one of the biggest reasons Kansas City changed out its offensive tackles in the offseason. The new group passed their first test in Week 1, mostly keeping the Detroit Lions’ star defensive end Aidan Hutchinson in check. But the Jaguars present a deeper group of rushers — especially on passing downs.

Outside linebacker Josh Allen tallied three sacks in Jacksonville’s season opener, while his running mate (and last year’s No. 1 draft pick Travon Walker) earned another. Defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris can also be a handful for interior offensive linemen.

On top of that, all of these players have familiarity with Kansas City right tackle (and former Jaguar) Jawaan Taylor. In this game, that wrinkle could go both ways.

4. The ups and downs of blitzing

NFL: Preseason-Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Chiefs found success blitzing Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence. In the playoff game, he completed just 45% of his passes when blitzed — and threw an interception.

Now, however, Lawrence has an additional weapon to help him beat man coverage behind a blitz: wide receiver Calvin Ridley. The duo showed plenty of chemistry in Week 1, as Ridley racked up 101 yards and a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts.

It’s going to be a great test for cornerback Trent McDuffie, who is likely to have the most responsibility in controlling Ridley. He’ll need to display the elite coverage talent that made him a Day 1 draft prospect.

5. Simple, short-yardage offense

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

While the Chiefs’ passing game is set up for a bounce-back performance, the running game also needs to show more than it did in Week 1 — especially in short-yardage situations.

Against the Lions, it wasn’t the fault of the offensive line or running backs that we saw two failed jet-sweep attempts in these scenarios. That was on the coaching staff, which needs to challenge itself to use the team’s up-front offensive talent to physically overwhelm the opposition. While this can be improved with more downhill play-calls, it’s also about attitude.

Let’s see more of the nastiness that we know (and love) from right guard Trey Smith. Let’s see center Creed Humphrey use his wrestling background to overpower a defender. Let’s see running back Isiah Pacheco get the ball headed north — not east or west.

Let’s see all of that — especially on short-yardage plays. At this point, if the Chiefs want to be unpredictable, making the traditional play-call should do the trick.

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