JACKSONVILLE – As if the task alone wasn't tricky enough.
The Jaguars, already faced with opening the 2019 regular season against one of the NFL's best offenses and a Super Bowl favorite, will face that task after one of the weirder opening weeks in franchise history.
Hurricane Dorian caused the weirdness, but the guess here is the difficult task the monster storm created isn't an impossible one.
The Jaguars certainly don't see it as impossible. Yes, Dorian's threat did cause Head Coach Doug Marrone to forego Wednesday's practice. And yes, facing the Kansas City Chiefs and 2018 NFL Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes is difficult on a full week of practice much less a truncated one.
But Marrone and players when speaking this week didn't sound like a storm-distracted team, and they sure didn't sound overwhelmed by the idea of facing the defending AFC West Champions.
The guess here is they won't be distracted Sunday because teams typically play well at the end of weird, chaotic weeks – and because this 2019 Jaguars team feels like one ready for the season and for this moment. The guess here is the Jaguars play very well, and that they have a better chance to win than the many national-analyst types understandably expecting a Chiefs victory.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars must do to make that happen:
1.Pressure the quarterback. This is always important, but it takes on game-defining importance Sunday. Mahomes was the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player; few expect a decline this season. The Jaguars are loaded with playmakers on the defensive front – ends Yannick Ngakoue, Calais Campbell and Josh Allen and tackle Marcell Dareus. If the Jaguars are to win Sunday, that foursome must disrupt in a big way.
2.Break serve. The Chiefs are good enough offensively that they're going to get points – quite possibly in the mid-to-high 20s. The nature of the NFL is it's difficult to hold elite offenses under that. The key for the Jaguars' defense is to create turnovers. A turnover or two created can more than counter a few touchdowns allowed.
3.Win turnovers. The Jaguars were good in 2017 when they were good in this category. They fell off in 2018 when they started committing takeaways and stopped forcing turnovers. It's hard to imagine them beating the Chiefs with a negative in this category.
4.Convert opportunities. The Jaguars' defense will create opportunities for the offense. That's what it's built to do. Too often last season the Jaguars' offense missed those opportunities or let situations that should have been touchdowns wither away to field goals. This offense must convert.
5.Lock down Chiefs Pro Bowl receiver Tyreek Hill … This will fall to cornerback Jalen Ramsey when the Jaguars are in man coverage. It's a job Ramsey wants. It's a job of which only he and a few others are capable. It's a job he must do.
6.Limit Travis Kelce. The Chiefs tight end is one of the NFL's best at the position, and he hurt the Jaguars in Kansas City last season. You're probably not going to shut down both he and Hill, but you need to keep Kelce from completely dominating the middle.
7.Play smart. The Jaguars haven't done this often enough in recent seasons, and they didn't do it in the preseason – as evidenced by a slew of penalties that bothered Marrone. Against a team as good as Kansas City, the Jaguars can't give away points, yards or situational advantages. They must play smart.
8.Be accurate. The theory all offseason is that new Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles would be more accurate than former quarterback Blake Bortles, and that by extension the receivers and passing game would improve almost by default. The theory also was that even minimal improvement at quarterback and on offense could lead to a major overall improvement. Time to put those theories to the test.
9.Run. Yes, the Jaguars signed Foles. Yes, the passing game should improve. But that doesn't mean this will be a passing team. To win, the Jaguars need a strong game from running back Leonard Fournette and a healthy offensive line. Fournette's capable of wearing down a defense and getting better as the game goes on. He has looked during training camp and preseason like a team ready to maximize his potential. No time like now.
10.Beat the heat. Heat rolled into Jacksonville in Dorian's wake. It's expected to stay through Sunday to the tune of 97 degrees. Such temperatures historically have helped the Jaguars in big early-season games. The Jaguars must use it to their advantage again.