Forgive us if this all feels quite new, but it does. The Jaguars can start 2-0 for the first time since 2018, which seems like an eternity ago. Blake Bortles was the leading passer, Leonard Fournette the leading rusher, Dede Westbrook the leading receiver and Doug Marrone the head coach. Trevor Lawrence wasn't even the starter yet ... at Clemson.
On the opposite sideline, Kansas City is looking to avoid its first 0-2 start since 2014 -- when Alex Smith was the starting quarterback, Jamaal Charles produced the last 1,000-yard season of his career, and the Chiefs actually missed the postseason. They haven't missed it since. Patrick Mahomes was a freshman at Texas Tech splitting quarterback duties with Davis Webb and pitching on the baseball team.
In other words, a lot has changed. And the Chiefs would love to keep that streak intact: Only four reigning Super Bowl champs have started a season 0-2, and none since the 1999 Broncos. And while Mahomes is a complete outlier when it comes to conditions that seem un-comeback-able, only 11.5% of teams that start 0-2 make playoffs since 1990. The Chiefs don't want to find out if he can break that trend, too.
The Jaguars' late-season run last year to make the playoffs was encouraging. Their comeback over the Chargers in the Wild Card round was exhilarating. The Jaguars are 9-3 in its last 12 games including playoffs. But two of those three losses have been to the Chiefs, Mahomes has never lost to Jacksonville, and the Chiefs overall haven't since 2009.
This is, plainly, a massive chance for Jacksonville.
How to watch Chiefs-Jaguars
- Date: Sunday, Sept. 17 | Time: 1 p.m. ET
- Location: TIAA Bank Field (Jacksonville, Florida)
- TV: CBS. Stream: Paramount+
- Follow: CBS Sports App
- Odds: Chiefs -3.5; O/U 51 (via SportsLine consensus odds)
When the Jaguars have the ball ...
Many times, preseason hype trains mean nothing.
When it comes to Calvin Ridley, it meant something. In fact, it meant quite a lot: eight catches, 101 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. Lawrence made do -- and then some -- last year with a receiving corps headlined by Christian Kirk and Evan Engram. But Ridley gives him an undisputed No. 1 wide receiver capable of winning one-on-ones consistently.
On Sunday, Lawrence went an absurd 11 for 11 for 129 yards and two touchdowns when the Jaguars had exact two wide receivers on the field. Six of those 11 completions -- and one of the touchdowns -- went to Ridley.
Last year, Lawrence only attempted 98 passes -- under six per game -- with exactly two wide receivers on the field and only threw three touchdowns on those sets. Again, he already has two through this year ... in one game.
That's exactly where Ridley's impact shines. Last year, the Jaguars had at least three wide receivers on the field on nearly 67% of their plays, 15th in the NFL. In Week 1, that was down to 55.1%, 24th in the NFL. It's a small sample size, but it's not nothing.
Ridley's ability to get open rather than be schemed open via extra receivers allows the Jaguars to devote more personnel to blocking -- such as in the clip above -- and that's really important for a team with major offensive line questions. And while the game came against a Colts team rife with inexperience in the defensive secondary, it was no outlier. In Ridley's breakout 2020 season, his 468 receiving yards with two wide receivers on the field ranked fifth in the NFL. His 21.3 yards per reception with two wide receivers on the field ranked first among 27 players with at least 20 catches on those plays.
This is an area that will cause the Chiefs concern after a lackluster Week 1. Kansas City surrendered 11.5 yards per attempt when the Lions had two wide receivers on the field, fifth-worst in the NFL. The extra days to prepare should help. Then again, the Colts had an entire offseason to prepare and still struggled. Lawrence and Ridley might just be that good.
When the Chiefs have the ball ...
Last week, I outlined, and while some of the frustrations of the 21-20 loss were expected, just how much they struggled was a surprise. In the second half, Mahomes went 2 for 12 for 12 yards when targeting wide receivers, and the Chiefs were 0 for 7 on third down.
Last year, the Chiefs led the NFL at 0.27 expected points added per dropback. Last week, that figure was -0.05 -- a number that would have ranked between the Bears and Patriots last year. So, yes, Kelce's expected return will be welcomed with open arms.
One of the biggest changes on a personnel level will be the Chiefs resorting to fewer three-wide receiver looks. Last week, there were three wide receivers on the field for nearly 73% of their plays. Last year, that number was 56%. A reversion to last year's numbers could really help Mahomes and company.
Patrick Mahomes Since 2022
2 WR on Field
3 WR on Field
Negative play rate
I'm also intrigued to see if the Chiefs can run the ball better with opposing defenses having to worry about Kelce. Last season, the Chiefs racked up 155 yards on the ground at a 5.7 yards per carry clip against Jacksonville. Perhaps most impressively, they averaged over 3 yards per rush before first contact.
In Week 1, the Chiefs had 23 carries for 90 yards. The Lions had at least eight defenders in the box on over 19% of plays. Last season, that was only 15%. Kelce's presence should alleviate some loaded boxes if nothing else, and potentially open more running lanes.