For the first time this season, the Kansas City Chiefs will take the field on Sunday as favorites when they welcome the Jacksonville Jaguars to Arrowhead Stadium.
The Jaguars will be trying to bounce back from a brutal 30-3 loss to the Tennessee Titans that put them in last place in the AFC South and knocked out their top two quarterbacks.
Here are the three players from each team that you will need to keep your eyes on.
Offense: Tony Moeaki
It’s no secret that the Jaguars will try and force Matt Cassel to beat them. The only question is if he will get any help from his receivers. Luckily for Cassel and the Chiefs offense, his favorite target should have plenty of opportunities against the Jacksonville defense.
Through six games, the Jaguars have given up 23 catches and 4 touchdowns to the opposing tight ends. In their three losses, the defense has allowed tight ends to average over 4 catches for 50 yards and a touchdown with all of them having at least one play over 21 yards.
Cassel loves throwing the ball short and by the looks of it, Moeaki will be available all day long.
Defense: Jovan Belcher
With the Jaguars going with their 38-year-old third string quarterback, it’s no secret that the Chiefs defense will get a heavy dose of the running game. The front seven (and eight and nine) need to shut things down, putting a lot of pressure on the Kansas City linebackers.
Todd Haley likes to call Belcher a “run and hit” linebacker and he will have to do plenty of both against Jacksonville. The Jaguars don’t look like a team that will be able to go wide on the Chiefs, so they will try and get their word done up the middle. It will be as important as ever that Belcher doesn’t get eaten up by blockers, giving Maurice Jones-Drew room to operate.
Special Teams: Ryan Succop
The Jaguars are struggling right now, but those struggles have given their kick return game plenty of chances. Deji Karim and the Jacksonville return unit have done a great job setting up the offense with solid field position. Succop will have to do all he can to make sure he keeps the ball in the end zone as much as possible.
Last week against the Texans, when Succop was allowed to kick the ball away, he only had one touchback but put two others right at the goal line. On those two returns, the Texans averaged 21 yards, a number the Chiefs would take this weekend.
Hopefully we’ve seen the end of the squib kickoffs from Succop and the Chiefs after getting burnt badly last week.
Offense: Maurice Jones-Drew
This week, Jones-Drew was called a “rolling ball of butcher knives” by Chiefs coach Todd Haley and I’m not about to disagree even if he isn’t quite rolling the way he expected right now. After averaging 4.5 yards a carry last season on his way to nearly 1,400 yards, Jones-Drew has only gone over 100 yards once this season on 3.9 yards a carry.
Sooner or later he is going to break out and the Chiefs defense showed last week that they are still susceptible to the big play on the ground.
Defense: Kirk Morrison
The Chiefs were able to neutralize a defense with a struggling secondary and led by a dynamic linebacker in week three when the 49ers and Patrick Willis came to Arrowhead Stadium. Now they get a chance to do it again with the Jaguars and Morrison.
He is a tackling machine that has started the season slowly and “only” has 36 tackles. That is a number that would currently lead the Chiefs but for Morrison is below average. In order for Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones to keep the Kansas City rushing game as the best in the league, they will have to keep Morrison out of the box score.
Special Teams: Deji Karim
This is the man Ryan Succop and the Chiefs special teams will be looking to slow down on Sunday. For a team that has trouble on offense, the kick return game is a bright spot, currently ranking 11th in the league. The unit has been consistent, but not spectacular as they are only one of four teams in the top 11 without a touchdown and the only one without a return longer than 60 yards.
Karim is averaging 28.5 a return, making it important for Succop to kick the ball out of the end zone as much as he can.