Jacksonville Jaguars @ Kansas City Chiefs: Jags making a case for the defence
Kansas City have lit up the opening weeks of the season with their fearless young quarterback Patrick Mahomes making the game look easy. That stops on Sunday, writes Mark Kirwan...
"Also, for all his schematic invention, Reid has seen his team's defence decline precipitously over the last few seasons. They need Mahomes to tear things up because, if he doesn't, they're screwed."
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, 18:00 BST
Live on Sky Sports Action
The more things change...
Last season, the Kansas City Chiefs ripped up the league through five weeks, beating down on the Pats on opening night and not letting up until a shaky looking Steelers team finally got their act together and gave them their first loss.
From that point on, the air slowly seeped from the Arrowhead balloon and there seemed to be something inevitable about their Wild Card defeat to the middling underdog Titans.
Now with a new quarterback under centre, the irrepressible second-year slinger Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs are the sexiest team in the league after a 4-0 start where they've run up scores and blown away opponents.
The question is if the reality check comes a week earlier this season?
Coach Andy Reid has a reputation as large as his considerable frame for planning and strategy. That gives the Chiefs a big advantage when he has time to prepare for opponents. The further we get from the preseason, the more variables affect this grand master's calculations, and the less of an edge his team has on the opposition.
Also, for all his schematic invention, Reid has seen his team's defence decline precipitously over the last few seasons.
They need Mahomes to tear things up because, if he doesn't, they're screwed.
While KC's offence was top of the stats, their defence has been ranked as among the worst in the league through the opening exchanges. They almost got caught by an uninspiring Broncos team on Monday night last week. Now, Eric Berry is managing an ankle issue, and linebacker Dee Ford is also limited in practice. These are two crucial defensive presences in this team.
Whichever version of Blake Bortles shows up will decide this game.
He looked great last week against the Jets, and picked apart the Patriots in week two, but couldn't make a play versus Tennessee a week later.
There is, however, a sense of control about this team and staff now that suggests they're capable of managing their exertions - and games - for when it really counts.
The Titans meeting looked like a hangover from the New England jamboree, and Jacksonville have comfortably handled both (bad) New York teams without overextending themselves.
This kind of careful management is becoming the signature of Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, whose job, in a sentence, is to protect the quarterback from himself.
Bortles will be without Leonard Fournette once again this week, and decision-makers in north eastern Florida have to be feeling nervous now about picking him fourth overall given the knack he's got for collecting injuries.
But the Jags haven't missed a beat when he's their rusher's had to duck game time, and KC's run defence is so bad they should be relishing the chance to toy around with it, whatever their personnel.
I'm inclined to expect this to be a tight game, so taking the Jags with the points makes sense. It's hard to love the spot, given they haven't been as spectacular as the Chiefs, but KC will have to start paying for their poor defence sometime, and the Jags coaching staff have shown they're more than capable of game-planning for match-ups like this. I'd take the Jags with the points at [1.92].
On the total points market, the Chiefs are trending under generally at Arrowhead despite their hot start, with five of their last six home games failing to make the total points mark. Also, the Jags will be looking to wind the clock as much as possible through their run game. that means less opportunities to score for both teams. I'd advise the under at [1.96] based on the Jaguars defence and their likely attempts to manage the game flow.
1pt on the Jacksonville Jaguars +3 on the Handicap market @ [1.92] on the Exchange
1pt on Under 49.0 on the Total Points market @ [1.96] on the Exchange