JACKSONVILLE – This is a test – a big-time test.
Telvin Smith knows this – and he's far from alone on a Jaguars defense that entering a Week 5 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs is confident entering and respectful at the same time.
Very, very respectful.
And very, very confident.
"We play a really good team this week," Smith – the Jaguars' Pro Bowl/All-Pro linebacker and defensive captain – said Wednesday as the Jaguars (3-1) prepared to play the Chiefs (4-0) at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, Sunday at 1 p.m.
Malik Jackson agreed.
"They have a lot of weapons," Jackson, the Jaguars' Pro Bowl defensive tackle, said. "With all the weapons they have, it should be fun. They're a high-powered offense with a lot of weapons."
The top matchup Sunday is one of the NFL's top matchups of the season: The Jaguars' No. 1-ranked defense versus the Chiefs' dynamic offense, a unit that ranks No. 1 in the NFL in points scored while featuring perhaps the NFL's most-explosive group of skill-position players.
"Those guys are kicking ass," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said of the Chiefs.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, running back Kareem Hunt, receiver/returner/back Tyreek Hill, tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Sammy Watkins … the Chiefs' offensive skill players are potent and dangerous, with Mahomes emerging this season as one of the most talked-about young stars.
Mahomes, the No. 10 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, is the NFL's second-rated passer through four games at 126.5. He has thrown 14 touchdowns and has yet to throw an interception with an NFL-best 15 passes of 25 yards or more.
"Right now, he is playing better than any quarterback has ever played," Marrone said. "He is an MVP quarterback. The question is what he can't do. I don't know. I don't think words can really put in perspective how great he is playing. That is really all there is to it."
Marrone added that the Jaguars' defense has "a lot of work to do in a short period of time."
The Jaguars' defense on Wednesday had the feel of a unit prepared to do the work, and excited about the opportunity at hand.
Smith in particular felt ready for a matchup he termed "best against best." Smith during his Wednesday media availability smiled widely when asked again and again about the matchup.
"Every time we step on the field, we want to test ourselves, see how good we can be, see how dominant we can be, see how far we can push each other," Smith said. "Our opponent every week they just happen to have a story behind them."
Smith smiled as he said this, adding, "They have a great team. They have a great explosive team."
Smith's smile grew widest when discussing what could be the game's most fascinating matchup: the Chiefs' speed on offense versus the Jaguars' speed on defense.
"How do I think our guys' speed stacks up?" Smith asked rhetorically. "See, I've been smiling the whole time … I don't know man. They're a fast group, but we're a fast group. Like I said, it's going to be the best against the best. Make your move. We're going to make our move. Come out and be ready."
Smith was asked why he was smiling so widely. He smiled.
"Ask me that after the game," he said. "Say, 'Why were you smiling so hard?' What was so funny?"
Though Smith didn't say much specific about the matchup, his defensive teammates earlier in the day spoke in a similar vein of respectful confidence – speaking, too, of a matchup of playmakers with speed a strength on both side.
"We have a good defense and they have a good offense," Jackson said. "They have the fastest offense, and we have the fastest defense. It should be fun. Hopefully, we'll give their fans something to cheer for us for and we'll go out and get a 'W.'''
Tashaun Gipson, the Jaguars' talkative and confident free safety, had a similar theme. He praised Mahomes as an up-and-coming player and praised the Chiefs' offensive speed while reminding reporters that the Jaguars are "the fastest defense in the National Football League – no question about it."
"We're going against the fastest offense; this is the fastest defense," Gipson said. "I definitely don't think we get enough credit, but I guess we're going to see."
As for who gets the edge Sunday, Gipson left no doubt.
"If I'm a betting man, I'm taking this defense – no matter who we play against, no matter who's at quarterback, no matter who's on offense," Gipson said. "We've got the guys over here to do it. This is something we're built for. We're built on speed. We're built on toughness. We're built on that fire and passion. …
"Nobody puts fear in this Jacksonville Jaguars defense. We'll see them come Sunday."