JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2022 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
ESPN NFL Nation Kansas City Chiefs writer Adam Teicher on the Chiefs as they enter Sunday's 2022 Week 10 game against the Jaguars at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Q: The Chiefs are 6-2 and lead the AFC West after a 20-17 overtime victory over the Tennessee Titans Sunday night. This team always has high expectations with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, but what's the Chiefs' mindset entering Sunday?
A: I think they'll take 6-2; in fact, I know they would take 6-2 if you had told them that's what they would be at this point in the season. The AFC West clearly has not materialized into this Best Division in the History of Football. And the Chiefs' schedule at first looked like a real minefield, which also hasn't developed into a real thing. It all worked out. They're in good health right now. They're in first place and tied for the best record in the AFC. They would have taken this, without a doubt.
Q: The Chiefs had an offseason of change, most notably trading wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins. What does it say about the franchise to have maintained this level?
A: I think from the outside maybe it was easy to think the Chiefs maybe thought they were taking a step back this year. That's not really what they thought. They thought they were going to be pretty good and that they were going to compete for a championship. Taking a step back really isn't the way of [General Manager] Brett Veach. He's also not pushing his chips all in on any one particular year. He has really tried to take the long view on all this while keeping the Chiefs a contender every year. They felt like they were good enough at quarterback and talented enough everywhere else around him that they were going to have a good season. This is not a surprise. They thought they would be competing for another Super Bowl. They're solid enough to where they can be in this thing with a group of others until the end.
Q: You've covered Mahomes since he came into the NFL and he obviously remains one of the NFL's best quarterbacks. Assess him right now.
A: He's what he always has been – and maybe better. To me, I put his performance against the Tennessee Titans Sunday (43 of 68 passing, 446 yards with one touchdown, 63 yards rushing with one touchdown) right near the top. It wasn't always pretty, but they asked a lot of him. The Titans were coming after him. They put a lot on his shoulders and he delivered. It was one of the more remarkable games of his career and he wasn't getting a lot of help. He's having one of his better years, if not his best year. I don't know that he could have had this kind of a game early in his career. He had a lot of four- and five-touchdown games, but I don't that he could have done what he did Sunday early in his career. A lot of what they got done was not in the playbook and he was real big in that.
Q: Assess the offense outside Mahomes, though he's obviously the key.
A: The offensive line has been a little up and down. The receivers aren't as good at the top of the depth chart as they have been, but they're deeper with more guys that they can go to. JuJu Smith-Schuster has sort of cemented himself as the No. 1 wide receiver. They don't have a superstar running back, but they have guys who fit their system pretty well. It's a solid group around Mahomes and of course there's tight end Travis Kelce. The tackles are probably the spot where if you could get the truth out of Head Coach Andy Reid about "What's your biggest concern here?" … I think that would be what he would tell you.
Q: The defense looked very good against a Tennessee team playing backup quarterback Malik Willis, holding the Titans to 229 yards. Where are the Chiefs defensively overall?
A: Don't read too much into Sunday night; the Titans were obviously afraid of how Willis could lose the game and they weren't letting him do much. They almost made it work, but they kept him under wraps. They (the Chiefs) have been up and down. I don't know what to make of them defensively. They have had some really good moments and they have had some moments where you go, "Wow, this is pretty bad." It's kind of been a been a weird year. They have been inconsistent. They started off the season defending the run really well, which is new for them. Then the last few games that part has fallen off. Their pass rush has been better. They were 29th [in sacks] in the NFL last year and have really improved. They have 22 this year and had 31 last year, so they're going to easily pass what they had last season. That part has been a little up and down. [Defensive lineman] Chris Jones has been their only consistent rusher; they have been a little spotty other than him. They're playing a lot of young guys; they had five rookies playing on defense against the Titans, with four of them in the secondary. There's reason to believe they're going to get better as the season goes on, but I don't know how to describe them defensively. It's kind of a mixed big. Some days you get this and some days you get that.
Q: The Super Bowl always is the goal for this franchise. Can the Chiefs get there this season?
A: If they can be more consistent, more consistently productive with their pass rush, that will carry them a long way. That may be right now what's holding them back. You just don't know what you're going to get from the Chiefs on a week-to-week basis defensively. That's a little bit of a concern in terms of how deep they're going to go in the playoffs, but on the right day they're good enough to beat anybody. They're good enough to win three games against good teams in the playoffs. It doesn't mean they will, but I think they're that good. I'm not necessarily predicting it, but I could see it. As long as Pat Mahomes is healthy with Reid calling plays, they're going to be good on offense. That doesn't mean there won't be bumps in the road, but over the long run they're going to be OK.