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 Saturday's 2022 AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Jaguars at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Q: The Chiefs finished the 2022 regular season 14-3 and won a seventh consecutive AFC West title. They are the AFC's No. 1 seed for a third time in five seasons. What differentiates this good Chiefs team from other good Chiefs teams?
A: It's mostly the negative stuff. They have been pretty sloppy at times. You remember the game against Jacksonville? The Chiefs were minus three in turnovers [in a Week 10 27-17 victory]. They finished the year negative in turnovers, hanging out with a lot of the losing teams. That's one thing. Their kicker (Harrison Butker) has been very unreliable (converting 18 of 24 field goals). They went into the last week of the season with the worst field goal percentage in the league and near the bottom in extra-point percentage. So, they've just been kind of bleeding points that way. Opponents only missed two field goals against the Chiefs this year, so there was a little bit of a gap there. There was some sloppiness that really has not been a thing for the Chiefs in the past.
Q: And the positives?
A: They rushed the quarterback really well. They finished second in the league in sacks, so they've done a nice job with that. They've not forced a ton of turnovers, but they have done a nice job sacking the quarterback and getting some pressure on them. [Defensive tackle] Chris Jones is playing out of his mind. He just had a spectacular year, week to week. Not that he hasn't played well at times in the past, but he has been consistent this year.
Q. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw 41 touchdowns with 12 interceptions and the Chiefs were No. 1 in the NFL in total yards offensively. Do the Chiefs go as Mahomes and the offense go? Is that fair or is there more to it?
A: That's fair. They're going to have to score to win in the playoffs. They're not going to shut Jacksonville or anybody else down. They led the league in scoring and were No. 1 in yards again this year. It's a little bit different type of offense, though. They're not as big-play, quick-strike oriented as they have been, but they have made it work. They have some depth in the receiving group and Mahomes has done a nice job. [Tight end Travis] Kelce gets the ball a lot, but other than that, Mahomes spreads it around a lot. And they've got some other guys who can beat you. But if it's going to be a low-scoring game, they may be in trouble.
Q: Is Mahomes better than ever?
A: It's hard to compare years, but I feel like the Chiefs have asked more of him this year. After trading [wide receiver Tyreek] Hill, it's a different type of deal here now. They're asking more of him and he has delivered. He had some games where you look at his stat line and you're thinking, 'He didn't play very well,' but the opposite was true. There have been some games where he really had had to kind of drag them out of the fire a little bit. In that sense, maybe he's been a little more valuable to the Chiefs than he was in the past. That sounds kind of silly, but I do feel like maybe he's been more valuable to them than he has been in the past.
Q: You mentioned the improvement of the pass rush. Where are the vulnerabilities in this defense?
A: They're young in the secondary. Three of their top four corners are rookies and they played a lot this season. At what point do you stop being a rookie? They've been a little grabby back there and some penalties hurt them from time to time – maybe more than most teams. They've been helped by the pass rush and there are some good players, don't get me wrong. But it has been a little bumpy at times. The tackling at times has been a little off for the defense as a whole. I don't know how to describe the Chiefs defensively. They rush the quarterback, but there's not much else you can count on from week to week from them. You're never sure exactly what you're going to get from that group from week to week. It has been kind of a weird year that way. It has just kind of been a weird year where things don't add up quite like you'd expect them to. It has just been kind of up and down.
Q: When the Chiefs are vulnerable, what makes them vulnerable?
A: There isn't any one thing that opponents have done that has been a big problem for them. They've handled a lot of things. Mahomes has had trouble at times in the past when teams drop and when they don't blitz him, but that hasn't been as much of a thing this year. There's really not one thing you can point to and say, "This gives the Chiefs trouble." They're not the most physical team on defense, so that's maybe one thing the Chiefs aren't quite built for. Other than that, I really can't point at any one thing.
Q: Since it seems the Chiefs are here every season, this is pretty much Super Bowl or Bust again this season?
A: That's kind of where they are right now. If they don't at least make it to the AFC Championship Game, if they lose this game on a Saturday, everybody will look at this season as a failure. Fourteen and three, No. 1 seed … did a lot of good things, led the league in scoring, Mahomes is probably gonna win the MVP … but if you lose now, it was a failed season. That's how they'll look at it now. It is one of those deals where that's where the expectations are.