Chiefs Season Preview: Week #17 Jaguars

The Chiefs will play their final game at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars. They are hopeful that the outcome of this year's season finale will actually have playoff implications, which wasn't the case last year.

In fact the Chiefs were eliminated from playoff contention before even stepping foot on the field in week 17 a season ago. They needed to beat Cincinnati while the Steelers lost to Detroit (which was highly unlikely) - just to make it as the AFC's sixth-seeded team.

It didn't work out for the Chiefs, and they ended up being the only 10-6 team in football to miss the playoffs. They don't want to feel like that again, so hopefully this year they'll have a "win and get in" type of situation.

But if that's the case, they should have their hands full with the Jaguars. Jack Del Rio's squad is one of the more competitive road teams in the league and they always seem to play games that go down to the wire.

OFFENSE: Byron Leftwich. While that didn't keep him from getting injured (he missed six games), it did maximize his production when he was on the field.

Leftwich has become one of the game's most accurate passers when he is able to take a five-step drop and stand in the pocket. He fires missiles and can make all the throws, particularly toward the sidelines.

Unfortunately, the Jaguars don't have a very good pass-protecting offensive line. Because of that that, Leftwich often found himself on his backside, despite the efforts to keep an extra blocker in for blitz pickups.

The simple fix for the Jaguars would be to turn to a short passing game and make sure that Leftwich gets the ball out quickly. He's always had a tendency to hold onto the ball too long. The other potential fix would be to establish the running game early on, and make opposing defenses fear them on the ground. That would allow them to turn to play-action and buy extra time for Leftwich, who likes to take chances downfield.

His favorite target, wide receiver Jimmy Smith, decided to retire during the off-season. He had been with the organization since their inaugural season in 1995. Smith put up Hall of Fame numbers with the Jaguars, and he was as good a third-down target as you'll ever find.

The Jaguars will struggle to fill his void, but they do have some young talent on the roster. Receivers Matt   Jones and Ernest Wilford both have exceptional size and can make the tough catches in traffic. Letftwich built up a great relationship with Wilford last season, especially near the end zone, as Wilford caught seven touchdowns in 2005.

Against the Chiefs, the key for the Jaguars will be clock control and producing quality possessions that move the chains. If they can get in a field position battle and creep their way closer and closer to the end zone while keeping the Chiefs' offense off the field, you've got to like their chances.

The staple of this Jaguars team, no matter how much their offense improves, is the defense. The front four is so good, it's scary. Defensive tackles John Henderson and Marcus Stroud are without question the best tandem in the league. They are tough, powerful linemen who are quick off the line of scrimmage. They can't be pushed around and can really disrupt the timing and rhythm of an offense.

Expect the Chiefs to challenge them by running up the middle. Just don't expect them to have much success doing it.

Defensive end Reggie Hayward still has great pass-rushing skills, and often requires a double-team of his own with his massive 6'6", 285-pound frame. He led the Jaguars in sacks last season with 8.5. Playing opposite is right end Paul Spicer, who is really more like a third tackle than an end. These guys are difficult to run against, and the Chiefs will have their hands full trying to keep them out of the backfield.

The Chiefs will also have to focus on linebacker Mike Peterson. He has evolved into one of the game's best linebackers, as he has phenomenal range and can move sideline to sideline. His coverage skills are excellent, and he's rarely caught out of position. He should have been a Pro Bowl selection in 2005. Outside linebackers Daryl Smith and free agent Nick Griesen will have to prove themselves in training camp, because a job won't just be handed to them. Griesen is pretty solid against the run, but with the injury problems he's had, it's doubtful that he'll stay on the field throughout the season.

Look for third-round draft pick Clint Ingram to challenge for a starting job at outside linebacker by midseason. Ingram is a gifted player who always seemed to come up with clutch plays in critical situations at the University of Oklahoma.

In the secondary, the Jaguars have plenty of depth, and with safety Donovin Darius they've got a game-changer as well. Darius likes to play close to the line of scrimmage, and the Jaguars basically use him as a third outside linebacker. He is a sure-tackler.

Cornerback Rashean Mathis, clearly their most gifted player in the secondary, is a rising star. He can match up one-on-one with just about anybody, and isn't afraid to challenge wide receivers at the line of scrimmage. The Jaguars will rely on him to take away half the field against the Chiefs, and it will be interesting to see if Trent Green avoids throwing in his direction.

There's no doubt that the Jaguars can come into Arrowhead and steal a victory. They have been one of the best road teams over the last few years, as their style of play often dictates the flow of the game.

If they are able to pound the run with Fred Taylor and rookie running back Maurice Drew, and if they are able to convert on third-downs, then they have a great chance. They'll need to keep Kansas City's offense off the field and limit their opportunities.

The x-factor in this game could be first-round draft choice Mercedes Lewis, a tight end out of UCLA. Lewis could be the short-yardage option that Leftwich turns to late in the game.

This one is too close to call, but lets just hope - for the sake of Kansas City fans everywhere - that the Chiefs are able to pull off a win if playoff hopes are on the line. Top Stories