The Jacksonville Jaguars are flying high right now, as they just pulled off one of the most shocking comeback victories in NFL history in the Wild Card round against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Jaguars overcame a 27-0 deficit to pull off a wild 31-30 win, extending their season at least one more week, and booking them a spot in the Divisional Round.
The problem for the Jaguars is that they now have a date with the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round, which is a rather daunting matchup for them. The Chiefs, who are perennially great under the leadership of Patrick Mahomes, are coming off a bye week in the Wild Card round, and will be ready to go against a hungry Jaguars team that just proved they mean business against the Chargers.
The Jaguars know what it’s like to be up against stacked odds, and they certainly won’t be the favorites to beat the Chiefs. But Jacksonville has pulled off their fair share of upsets this season, and they will be looking to add one more to their collection in the Divisional Round. In order to do that, though, they are going to need a big outing from this key X-Factor, so let’s see who that is and why they are so important for the Jags in this game.
Jaguars X-Factor vs. Chiefs: Evan Engram
The Jaguars took on the Chiefs back in Week 10, and while they lost 27-17, it was a game that was surprisingly close despite the fact that Jacksonville fell behind 20-0. That game should prove invaluable for both sides, but it’s worth noting the Jaguars are a much different team than they were in Week 10.
Since the loss to the Chiefs, the Jaguars have gone 7-1, including their latest win over the Chargers. At the time, they seemed to have no shot of making the playoffs, but now, they may just be the hottest team in football. The Jaguars have figured out their game plan on both sides of the ball, and they are an extremely fun team to watch.
One crucial development over that recent eight stretch of football is the emergence of tight end Evan Engram. Engram didn’t do much throughout the first half of the season, but after Week 10, Engram has suddenly become one of the best tight ends in the game. Over the Jaguars recent eight-game stretch, Engram has been on an absolute tear (44 REC, 507 YDS, 4 TD) and he might just be the most important offensive player for Jacksonville in this game.
Engram’s star turn has been both wildly unexpected and extremely beneficial for the Jaguars offense. Engram is a fantastic receiver who can make plays on his own, while also opening up opportunities for the rest of his teammates. Even if he isn’t getting the ball, Engram’s ability to draw attention, typically in the middle of the field, allows Trevor Lawrence to operate outside of the numbers with ease.
Take a look at the Jaguars win over the Chargers just last week. Engram was the only guy having any sort of success against L.A.’s defense in the first half, catching three passes for 32 yards and a touchdown. The Chargers were playing very aggressive coverage on the outside, but diverted more attention to Engram in the middle after halftime. It’s safe to say it didn’t work out too well for the Chargers.
Engram also wasn’t a factor in the Week 10 contest against the Chiefs, hauling in three catches for just 14 yards. Considering his major role increase, it’s safe to expect him to surpass those totals in flying colors in this game. Kansas City isn’t the best at defending opposing tight ends, or really anyone for that matter, and Jacksonville is going to have to score points in bunches if they want to win this game.
It’s not a stretch to say that Engram could win or lose Jacksonville this game. If he’s able to create space in the middle of the field, that will open up the outside of the field for the Jags’ top receiver corps of Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Marvin Jones Jr. We just saw last week how Engram can make the Jaguars offense tick, and it’s no surprise he’s been on fire during their recent winning stretch.
If Engram can get going early, Jacksonville’s offense will be in a really good spot against Kansas City. They found some answers late in their first matchup against the Chiefs, and if they can be more consistent on offense, they could pull off another upset victory over the top seed in the AFC. It’s not going to be easy, but if Engram makes his mark in this one, don’t be surprised if the Jaguars end up coming out on top.