JACKSONVILLE – Sunday is important. Really important.
But while Head Coach Doug Pederson acknowledged this Wednesday as the Jaguars prepared to play the defending Super Bowl champions, he made this much just as clear: It's not season-defining in any way. Absolutely not.
"It's not how you start, it's how you finish," Pederson said.
The Jaguars (1-0) will play host to the Kansas City Chiefs (0-1) at EverBank Stadium Sunday at 1 p.m. It's a matchup of the 2022 AFC South Champion Jaguars against a team that not only has won two Super Bowls in four seasons, but that has won the last seven meetings in the series, including last year's playoff game.
"It's just the next game on our schedule," Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. "It's a big game – the reigning Super Bowl champions – and for the last however many years, this has been the best team in the league. There's that added element of, 'Let's go get this one, let's kind of show who we are,' but it the next game for us.
"We're just trying to go 1-0 this week. We're going to have 15 more after that. You don't make it bigger than it is, but it is a big game."
The Chiefs' seven-game streak in the series includes two victories last season in Kansas City – 27-17 in November and 27-20 in an AFC Divisional Playoff game.
"We owe them," Jaguars tight end Evan Engram said. "They're the Super Bowl champs. They've been doing this for a long time and that's where we're trying to get. We don't take this battle, this opportunity lightly."
Said wide receiver Christian Kirk, "It will be a good test for us early in the season to see where we're at. It's going to be a tight football game. We know that and we know adversity is going to strike. It's big for us in Week 2 to really get a taste for the caliber of football and the level of football we want to play. We're going to have to beat teams like this to get to where we want to go. It's important for us to approach it that way."
Lawrence said while the Jaguars will study last year's matchups, "right now we've turned the page."
"It's a new year and we're getting another opportunity to play these guys," he said. "We didn't have a lot of success last year. We played them twice and didn't win either of those games. But it's a new year. We've both got different teams, it's a new season. There's a different set of challenges.
"You use that to prepare for this game for sure. You have to use the tape from the previous meeting, but you're not carrying those emotions over. It's a new season. We have to prepare for this game."
Pederson called the game "a little bit of a benchmark," adding that that storyline should be kept in perspective.
"It would be a great opportunity to pull one out," Pederson said. "We have to play better. By no means are we where we want to be."
The Jaguars opened the season this past Sunday with a 31-21 road victory over the Indianapolis Colts and enter Week 2 as the only unbeaten team in the AFC South. Pederson and Lawrence on Wednesday emphasized improving from a Week 1 performance in which the Jaguars rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit with two touchdowns.
"After having a full game, the guys play and see the mistakes," Pederson said. "The excitement of Week 1 is not there anymore. The mistakes go away a little bit. I don't think you're a finished product by Week 2 or Week 3. You're still a work in progress. But you do see some of the mistakes go away."
- Lawrence on Wednesday discussed offensive coordinator Press Taylor having play-calling responsibilities full-time this season. Pederson called plays in the first half of games last season, with Taylor calling them in the second halves. Lawrence on whether he expects differences between the two: "It's a hard question to answer because every week is different already. Of course there are things we do that we're good at and we're going to continue to do week after week, and maybe find ways to dress it up and make it look a little different. This is our offense. It's the same offense. We have a few new wrinkles over the offseason, but this is the offense that we've had and our core stuff is similar obviously."
- Injury Report: Center Luke Fortner (ankle) and guard Brandon Scherff (ankle) missed practice Wednesday, with safety Antonio Johnson (hamstring) and cornerback Gregory Junior (hamstring) also not practicing.
- Rookie defensive lineman Tyler Lacy (hip) practiced limited. Johnson missed a Week 1 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, with Junior, Scheff and Fortner sustaining Week 1 injuries. Pederson said Johnson is "still a ways" from returning. Pederson called Scherff "day to day" and said Fortner is "a little further ahead" than Scherff.