JACKSONVILLE – It's a significant game, and not just because it's the next game.
Head Coach Doug Pederson acknowledged that Wednesday as the Jaguars prepared for a team that has routinely contended for Super Bowls in recent seasons and is expected to do so again this season.
"It's one of those benchmark games," Pederson said as the Jaguars (3-6) prepared to play the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs (6-2) at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday at 1 p.m.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence called the Chiefs “a great team.”
"It would be huge for us obviously to go get a win and kind of measure ourselves against the rest of the league, but every week you have an opportunity to do that," Lawrence said.
The Jaguars, after five consecutive one-score losses, enter Sunday after rallying from a 17-point deficit in a 27-20 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders at TIAA Bank Field this past Sunday – and players on Wednesday said that's a positive entering the final two months of the season.
"It's momentum for our whole team," Lawrence said. "Obviously the month of October wasn't our best month if you want to compartmentalize it that way. It's exciting for our team to be on the right side of a close game. That hadn't happened in a while.
"We've flipped the page. Everything's going toward the Chiefs. It's a big challenge for us. It's a big opportunity to go into Arrowhead Stadium. Everything's focused on that; it's how consistent can you be."
The Chiefs may be the Jaguars' toughest opponent of the season to date, having won the last seven AFC West titles and having played in the AFC Championship Game each of the past four seasons. They have won four of the last five games, rank first in the NFL in scoring and second in total offense – and quarterback Patrick Mahomes again is a favorite to be named NFL Most Valuable Player.
"He's probably one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever live," Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. said of Mahomes. "You see the things he does week in and week out. As a competitor, you want to play the best. We're definitely going to get that. I'm just excited for the opportunity."
The Jaguars, an improving team in Pederson's first season, have played well to date this season against teams that currently have winning records. They beat the 5-3 Los Angeles Chargers 38-10 in Week 3, lost to the 8-0 Philadelphia Eagles 29-21 in Week 4 after leading 14-0 and led the 6-2 New York Giants in the fourth quarter of a 23-17 loss in Week 7.
"You're going against a team that's been one of the top [teams] in the AFC and obviously won a Super Bowl here recently (following the 2019 season)," Pederson said. "It's a challenge. It's a challenge to go on the road. It's a great place to play. It's loud. The weather is going to be a little cold – 40 degrees-ish. It's going to be a different environment for us.
"We don't make any excuses. We just go play and try to gauge where we are against a football team that's pretty good."
- Etienne in the last month has emerged as of the NFL's top players at his position, rushing for more than 100 yards in each of his last three games and producing more than 100 total yards in five consecutive games. His 5.7-yards-per-carry average leads NFL rushers with 100 or more carries and he has 17 runs of 10 more yards. "It's good to have a guy who's making plays like that, especially explosive ones," Pederson said. "Credit the guys who are blocking and creating those holes, but he has been able to rip through some arm tackles and extend a run. You never know when that one play is going to come where he's going to rip one off."
- Pederson on Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid, for whom Pederson played with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999 and for whom he coached with the Eagles from 2009-2012 and with the Chiefs from 2013-2015: "He has coached me, and I've worked with him and worked for him. Players love him. He's hard. He's a disciplinarian. He demands a lot – all the things I strive to do in my job. He's creative. He does a great job of putting his guys in position to make plays. You see it over the years: The teams that they have put out there have all been great football teams."
- Jaguars tight end Evan Engram was listed as practicing limited on the Wednesday injury report after leaving Sunday's game with the injury. Safety Rayshawn Jenkins remains in the concussion protocol after leaving Sunday's game with the injury and was listed as not practicing Wednesday.