The Kansas City Chiefs have roared out of the gates for the second consecutive season, once again riding an offense that ranks at the top of the NFL. The major difference this year, has been Patrick Mahomes stepping in under center to replace Alex Smith. Mahomes’ numbers have been prolific through four games, ranking 11th in passing yards (1,200), first in touchdowns (14) and second in passer rating (126.5). Those stats have helped give Kansas City the league’s top-scoring offense, averaging over 36 points per game.
Mahomes just faced his first strong defense of the season in the Denver Broncos, but this week he’ll meet what is quite possibly the league’s best in the Jacksonville Jaguars. The game promises to be a chess match between elites. To get some insight into the matchup, we caught up with NFL on CBS analyst Dan Fouts. Fouts, along with Ian Eagle and Evan Washburn, will be in New York this Sunday when the Jets take on the Broncos at 1 p.m. ET on CBS. We asked Dan about that matchup and the Chiefs-Jaguars showdown. (Editor’s note: This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.)
CBS Local Sports: The Jets have struggled since their dominant opener against the Lions, averaging just over 13 points a game. What’s the biggest reason for the offensive struggles that we’ve seen?
Dan Fouts: It’s a combination of things. Rookie quarterbacks are going to struggle, there is no question about that, and we have all gone through it as young quarterbacks. Pass protection is always a key, and the Jets have had some problems in that area. Then, being able to execute and make plays when you need to in order to extend drives is also important. Right now the Jets are just getting used to each other and trying to figure things out.
CBS Local Sports: Their opponent, the Broncos, is coming off a tough loss to the Chiefs. What’s the matchup you’re watching for in this game?
Dan Fouts: The psychological thing that you were touching on there is really key. Which team can put their woes behind them quickly and jump out on top early, to get a feeling of confidence going? The Jets are looking at this next three-game stretch (Broncos, Colts, Vikings) as a chance to turn things around.
Denver, as you said, had a disappointing loss on Monday night, when they dominated the Chiefs for nearly the entire game. For Denver, that’s tough, because now they have to travel across the country and play against a team that’s also hungry for a win. It’s going to be an interesting start to the game.
CBS Local Sports: A big game at the top of the AFC as well this weekend with the undefeated Chiefs playing host to the 3-1 Jaguars. Patrick Mahomes has still yet to throw an interception. What are you seeing from him and the Chiefs scheme that has allowed for such success in the first four games?
Dan Fouts: Like the Jets offensive struggles, there’s a combination of factors here. You have a very creative coach in Andy Reid who has seen it all and made it all offensively. The talent that surrounds Mahomes is as good as any in the NFL. Then, you look at Mahomes’ background and the fact that he grew up around Major League Baseball players — with his dad being a pitcher — is huge, because then you don’t have the “deer in the headlights” look when you get around pro athletes. The final thing that was big for Mahomes was sitting behind Alex Smith for a year. He had the opportunity to learn the offense without the pressure of executing it.
CBS Local Sports: The Jaguars defense looks strong again this year. How will they look to attack this Chiefs offense?
Dan Fouts: The key for the Jags is pressure on Mahomes, and it has to be a containment pressure. You have seen Mahomes make plays out of the pocket, because he can throw off-balance and off-rhythm. He’s just a remarkable athlete. So, it has to be a contain type of pass rush, where you want to keep him in the pocket and force him to run up the middle where you have help. For any quarterback, and especially a young quarterback, it’s all about how can you get them a little bit frustrated, a little bit flustered and a little bit sacked.