After getting a week off, the Chiefs’ march to Super Bowl 57 picks back up again this weekend. Fresh off one of the biggest upsets in postseason history, the Jacksonville Jaguars will head to Arrowhead Stadium for a Saturday afternoon matchup between two of the most exciting teams in the AFC. The game’s also a rematch of their Week 10 game, when the Chiefs handedly beat the Jaguars, 27-17. The playoffs are a different beast, of course, and few teams still playing have a better energy going right now than Jacksonville. So how will this one play out? Here are three matchups to keep an eye on.
Andrew Wylie vs. Josh Allen
The Chiefs offensive line has played fairly well for most of the year – according to Pro Football Focus, Orlando Brown Jr., Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey, and Trey Smith are all top-20 at their respective positions. The outlier is Wylie, who by those same metrics ranks 57th out of 83 right tackles. Wylie finished the regular season with more pressures allowed than almost every other tackle in football – although, to be fair, so did Brown. He’ll line up against the Jaguars’ best pass-rusher, who has 4 sacks, 28 tackles, 6 TFLs, and 13 QB hits over the last six games. The Athletic’s Ted Nguyen has a great write up of what you can expect from Mahomes vs. the Jaguars’ pass rush. Mahomes has shown this season that he’s able to avoid sacks even with some poor tackle play, but Wylie will need to play one of his better games of the season if the Chiefs want to get their Bills/Bengals rematch in the AFC Championship.
Christian Kirk vs. Trent McDuffie
Though he started on the outside and played the majority of his snaps there this season, McDuffie moved inside starting in Week 16 – and played close to 40 snaps there in each of the Chiefs’ final three games. McDuffie’s rookie season looked like a lot of other rookie seasons, especially in the secondary – though he missed most of the season’s first half, the second half featured some good games (Tennessee, Jacksonville, Denver) and some less good games (Chargers, Houston, Seattle). He’ll have his hands full on Saturday against Kirk who, after signing a head-turning contract with the Jaguars last offseason, quietly put up validating numbers (92 catches, 1,186 yards, nine touchdowns) this year. For all his strengths, Jaguars Q Trevor Lawrence does have a bit of a turnover tendency – he probably won’t throw four again, but the opportunity for McDuffie (or anyone else in the secondary) to make a game-changing play will be there.
Chris Jones vs. Luke Fortner
This may be one of the more intriguing one-v-one mismatches on the entire field this Saturday. Jones has been a stud this year – he ranks as PFF’s top overall interior defensive lineman, with run defense and pass rush grades that either set career-highs or got very close. He also finished tied four fourth across the entire NFL in sacks (15), which was only one less than his stellar 2018 season. On the other side is Fortner, who by those same metrics, ranks as the second-worst center in the NFL this year. PFF stats aren’t everything – for instance, Fortner was ranked as the 6th-best rookie according to ESPN. Going up against one of the best interior linemen in football is a tall task for anyone, especially a rookie who’s only playing his second career playoff game.