Coming off a season in which the Chargers went an abysmal 4-12, and had their season derailed by numerous major injuries, they have a chance for redemption. The only problem is they are playing against a team they haven’t beaten since 2013. Kansas City has won a league high 10 regular seasons games in a row going back to last year, but this gives San Diego a truly great opportunity to leave its mark on the first weekend of football, while snapping a 4 game skid against the Chiefs, and an 8 game divisional losing streak.
The Chiefs offense will more than likely be missing pro-bowl running back Jamaal Charles, but that was since week 5 of last season as well, and Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West filled the void. These two helped the Chiefs to sixth in the league in rushing at almost 128 yards per game, and they will definitely want to exploit a chargers defense that ranked 27th in the league at stopping the run. Kansas City will rely on the steady arm of Alex Smith to orchestrate the offense, and we can expect many short passes from him, giving his receivers chances to create after the catch. Smith is also a deceitful running threat, as the Bolts found out in their first matchup when he had 7 carries for 33 yards, so even though he doesn’t have blazing speed the Chiefs will use his legs to extend drives. The Chiefs also have Travis Kelce, who is a matchup nightmare at 6’5” 260lbs, and will have a mismatch with almost any defensive back or linebacker.
On offense for the Chargers there are many new faces like Travis Benjamin and Hunter Henry getting their first action in this game and they will be needed because star wide receiver Keenan Allen has a tough matchup with defensive rookie of the year Marcus Peters more than likely shadowing him. Allen will be crucial this week, having missed both games against the Chiefs last season and San Diego only scoring three points in each game. All eyes will be on Melvin Gordon coming off a disappointing rookie season, and struggling just as much against the Chiefs last season with a combined 29 carries for 72 yards. Gordon had an impressive preseason and has a healthy and slightly improved offensive line, so he will look to get off to a quick start against a banged up Kansas City defense. This offense lives and dies with the play of its offensive line, so if they can hold up this week, Philip Rivers and company will be in business.
This will be a different Chiefs defense than we have seen in recent games with no Justin Houston and a limited Tamba Hali, if he plays. This team still has the core of a defense that ranked 3rd in the NFL allowing only 17.9 points per game, and it will look to Dee Ford to pick up the slack rushing the passer. The secondary is arguably the strongest part of Kansas City’s defense with pro-bowlers Marcus Peters and Eric Berry. Look for the Chargers to pick on the corner on the opposite side Phillip Gaines, who has zero career interceptions and only 26 total tackles over his first two seasons. Up front Dontari Poe led one of the best run defenses in the league last season, with stalwart Derrick Johnson behind him who had 116 combined tackles last season.
On defense for San Diego it all starts with Brandon Mebane up front trying to shore up one of the worst rush defenses in the league, who gave up an 303 yards and 3 touchdowns in two games against the Chiefs defense. Mebane has looked every bit of what he was promised to be so far, but now he has to prove it in his first game. Another player to watch for is second year man Denzel Perriman, who looking to take the next step this season and become on of the best inside linebackers in the league. Perriman’s instincts and hard-hitting should be more evident with Mebane eating up blockers, and stopping the run is the number one tasks for San diego this week. Jason Verrett, the Chargers best defensive player, and has been limited this week in practice and if he is not 100 percent, the secondary look could struggle mightily, but if Melvin Ingram and Jerry Attouchu can get pressure consistently it won’t be an issue. Kansas City will use many screens and short passes to slow down the pass rush, so the Chargers will have to have a very solid tackling game to counter the Chiefs scheme.
The Chargers have a very real shot at winning this game, and this might be their best chance to beat the Chiefs this season,with all of their injuries, even though Arrowhead is one of the toughest stadiums in the league to play in. As i said on the Chargers Domination Podcast I believe this is a grind it out game that Chargers win 17-13.
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