The Jaguars are 1-3 in games immediately following the bye week and the big question in Jacksonville heading into Sunday's game at Kansas City is: Are the Jaguars ready to go?
"I think we're fine. We were pretty sharp," running back Fred Taylor said, referring to the team's first practice of the week. "Me, as a team leader, I gotta do what I can to get these guys flying around."
It has long been a knock on the Jaguars that they play inconsistently. Coming off a dominant performance in a win in Denver, the Jaguars will have a chance to shed the inconsistent tag by claiming a second consecutive win on the road against an AFC West team.
"We're gonna play some good football," Taylor said of what remains in this season.
The Jaguars need a top performance from Taylor to help quiet the Arrowhead Stadium crowd and keep Chiefs running back Larry Johnson on the sideline as much as possible. Last New Year's Eve, Johnson rushed for 138 yards and three touchdowns in the Chiefs' 35-30 win over the Jaguars.
"I'd like to out-rush the other team's running back, but I have no affect on what the other guy does. That's up to our defense," Taylor said.
Johnson got off to a slow start in the first three games of the season, but went over 100 yards rushing for the first time last Sunday in an upset win in San Diego. Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio is in awe of Johnson's speed and power.
"It's rare that you see such a combination," Del Rio said.
After the first two weeks of the season, the Chiefs appeared as though they might be a soft touch on the Jaguars schedule, but consecutive wins changed that perception. All of a sudden, this has become a game against the league's third-ranked defense and in a stadium where the Chiefs seldom lose. They have won seven of their last eight games in Arrowhead and are 9-2 in October since 2002.
"Obviously, the crowd helps you; a lot of energy in that stadium if you're playing well," Chiefs coach Herman Edwards said. "If you fall behind it's very, very tough. Historically, it's been that way."
Edwards is in his second year as the head man in Kansas City and he's beginning to put his stamp on the Chiefs, converting them from a high-scoring offense to a defensive-minded team. The team that had trouble forcing opponents to punt a few years ago is now in the top 10 of most defensive categories.
"When the weather changes, you better have a good defense because when you look at those teams that are constantly in the playoffs, they play pretty good defense. They have good offenses; they can run the ball. The game is set up in this manner; it always has been. You throw to score but you have to run to win and if you understand that and believe in that philosophy and you try to build your team that way, you have a pretty good chance of winning games," Edwards said.
Quarterback Damon Huard would seem to be a stop-gap solution at quarterback, but he has two top receiving weapons: star tight end Tony Gonzalez and rookie wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who has caught 18 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns, one of which went for 51 yards. Bowe is a classic speed receiver.
"We have won a couple of ballgames and I think we have gained some confidence here," Huard said. "We have only scored about 14 points per game and that isn't enough in this league."
The Jaguars and Chiefs have similar styles. They each have run-the-ball offenses that play to the teams' strength, which is defense.
Kickoff is set for one p.m. Eastern Time.