JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- After a day of watching film of the Kansas City Chiefs' offense and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone came to the same conclusion as the rest of the country.
Marrone was amazed at what he's seen from the second-year quarterback, running back Kareem Hunt, receivers Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson and De'Anthony Thomas, and tight end Travis Kelce. The speed, improvisation, big plays, variety of formations and motions, disguises and misdirections ...
"What you're seeing is it's kind of -- it's unbelievable," Marrone said. "We've got our hands full."
The Chiefs (4-0) lead the NFL in scoring (36.3 points per game) and pass plays of 25 or more yards (15). In addition to having a league-high 14 TD passes and no interceptions, Mahomes has a big arm and a knack for extending plays and making tough throws while scrambling. Hill is one of the NFL's fastest players and a dangerous open-field runner.
No team has yet been able to contain the Chiefs' offense, but if there is a defense that can it's the Jaguars. They have the corners to match up with the Chiefs' receivers. They have a safety who's already proved he can handle an elite tight end. They have speed at linebacker to deal with the backs. And they have a defensive line that brings pressure off the edge and penetration up the middle.
Four 2017 All-Pros (two first-teamers). Eight players who have been voted to at least one Pro Bowl. Playmakers at every level.
And they're certainly up for the challenge.
"If I'm a betting man, I'm taking this defense, no matter who we're playing against, no matter who's at quarterback," safety Tashaun Gipson said. "We've shown that no matter who's on offense, we've got the guys over here to do it. This is something that we're built for. We're built on speed, we're built on toughness, and we're built on just that fire and passion.
"I guess we're going to have a good outing come Sunday. It's going to be an exciting opportunity."
Expect Gipson to be matched up with Kelce a fair amount. He drew a similar assignment when the Jaguars played New England and helped limit Rob Gronkowski to just two catches for 15 yards in Jacksonville's 31-20 victory.
Gipson had help over the top from safety Barry Church, but at times also had to deal with the 268-pound Gronkowski himself. Kelce (6-foot-5, 260 pounds) is a different kind of challenge. He's more athletic than Gronkowski and even better after the catch -- since the 2016 season began his 2,470 yards after the catch leads all tight ends.
He's also caught a pass in 67 consecutive games dating to the beginning of the 2014 season.
"I think that this is a matchup that I definitely got excited about," Gipson said. "I looked at the schedule this year [and] I circled the games where tight ends that I felt that I knew that I was going to be really amped up about it -- not to take anything away from the guys who aren't the marquee names. If you feel like you're the best, if you feel like you want to put it out there that you're the best, you've got to go against the best."
Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, both of whom made the Pro Bowl last season, are regarded as the best cornerback duo in the NFL. It's likely Ramsey, a first-team All Pro in 2017, will shadow Hill, who is one of the league's fastest players. Hill already has six catches of 25 or more yards and has seven catches of 50 or more yards (six for TDs) since he entered the league in 2016.
That means Bouye will get Watkins, who is battling a hamstring injury, and/or Robinson. The Jaguars will be without starting nickelback D.J. Hayden because of a toe injury, so Tyler Patmon will fill his role.
Linebackers Myles Jack and Telvin Smith can really run, and that's an advantage when it comes to dealing with Hunt and a scrambling Mahomes. They have the speed to get to the edge and cover Hunt and the other backs, and they can close quickly on Mahomes if he gets outside the pocket. Jack already has a defensive touchdown and Smith has more solo tackles than any other player in the NFL since he entered the league in 2014.
The Jaguars' pass rush hasn't recorded a lot of sacks (10), but end Calais Campbell has 3.0 after setting the single-season franchise record with 14.5 last season. Yannick Ngakoue, who got his first sack last week, has 21 in 36 career games.
The goal is to keep Mahomes in the pocket because he's so dangerous on the outside. Per ESPN Stats & Information, Mahomes threw for 192 yards outside the pocket against Denver on Monday night -- the highest total for any quarterback in the past 10 seasons. That falls to Campbell, Ngakoue and Dante Fowler Jr.
Defensive tackle Malik Jackson and nose tackle Marcell Dareus have played well so far this season, giving the Jaguars a good interior rush. Dareus has 17 tackles, putting him on pace for the second-highest total of his career (68), and he's been the anchor in the middle of the Jaguars' run defense.
That combination has the Jaguars atop the NFL rankings in points per game (14.0), total yards per game allowed (259.3) and pass defense (164.3).
"We pride ourselves on being a really good defense, so this is a great challenge for us," Campbell said. "We know they've got firepower everywhere. Everywhere. I'm looking forward to the challenge. This defense, we believe in ourselves, so this is an opportunity for us to go and see what happens."
It's a bigger challenge than they might think. According to Elias, teams with the top-scoring offense have matched up against teams with the top-scoring defense in Week 5 or later seven times in the past 20 seasons. The teams with the top-scoring offense are 5-2 in those games, and the top scoring offenses have averaged 30.1 points per game in the seven games.