The Chargers did the unthinkable last week, losing to an awful Cleveland Browns team in one of the most embarrassing losses in franchise history. Now they come home to host the Chiefs, and the Chargers will have a shot at spoiling a first-round bye week for them in the playoffs.
The Chargers season has come full circle. They get another shot at the team that started their fourth-quarter woes, when the Chiefs came back from 17 points down in the fourth to beat the Bolts in Week 1.
The Chargers offense has been in a tailspin, averaging only 18.2 points in their last five games after scoring 29.2 per game in their first ten. The main issue for the bolts recently, has been the absence of the running game since losing Melvin Gordon to a nasty knee/hip injury. Unfortunately, Gordon will not be coming back for the season finale and will end his resurgent season with 997 yards, and 12 total touchdowns. The Bolts rushed for 155 yards in the first matchup, and will have to do their best with the combination of runningbacks, Ronnie Hillman and Andre Williams. The offensive line allowed no sacks last week but will be without starting left tackle King Dunlap, and possibly left guard Orlando Franklin. Philip Rivers will need his patchwork line to hold strong against a good pass rush, or it could be a long day for the Chargers signal-caller. Tyrell Williams is only 11 yards away from his first 1,000-yard season, and he and the rest of the receivers need to try and make up for what they lack running the ball.
The Chiefs run a very balanced offense that specializes in short passes designed to get the ball in the hands of their playmakers. Rookie Tyreek Hill has exploded onto the scene and has made a difference in multiple phases of the game. Hill has 10 touchdowns including a punt return, 3 rushing scores, while amassing 6 plays of 40+ yards.Travis Kelce has put up Rob Gronkowski like numbers this season racking up 84 catches, for 1,113 yards, and 4 touchdowns. He had an 80-yard touchdown last week, and has had 100 or more receiving yards in four of his last five games. Spencer Ware has run the ball effectively this year, but killed the Chargers with 129 receiving yards in the first matchup. Quarterback Alex Smith has been known as a game manager but does have a rushing touchdown in consecutive games, along with some big plays.
The Chargers defense finally found ways to get constant pressure against the Browns, with 9 sacks last week, 2 by rookie of the year candiate Joey Bosa. This was encouraging, but they did allow 17 points in the first half to a very bad team. The good news is the players they have left on defense are seemingly healthy this week, with only Denzel Perryman questionable for the game. The biggest key for the defense this week will be tackling, playing disciplined to counter the short game for the Chiefs, and limiting their big gains. Last week the Chargers failed to force a turnover for the first time this season, and they need to more than ever this week to have a chance to win.
The Chiefs defense has been great this year allowing only 18.9 points per contest, and they do it by forcing turnovers. Kansas City has forced 16 fumbles, and also has 16 interceptions giving them the most takeaways in NFL. Their secondary is especially dangerous with their two Pro-Bowlers Marcus Peters, and Eric Berry. They combine for 9 interceptions, and two defensive touchdowns. The Chiefs recently lost their best inside linebacker, and leading tackler Derrick Johnson to injury, and will also be without All-Pro linebacker, Justin Houston. Dee Ford has stepped up nicely in Houston’s absence, leading the team with 10 sacks. Kansas City has been weak stopping the run, but will benefit from playing a team that more than likely won’t be able to exploit it.
This game could potentially be the Chargers last in San Diego, with all of the uncertainty around their potential relocation. It will be interesting to see if they can bring the same energy as they did in the last home game of 2015, where they throttled the Dolphins 30-14.
The Chiefs want this game badly and have not lost to the Chargers since 2013, when the Chiefs rested their starters and missed a game-winning field goal. I don’t think the injury-riddled Chargers will be able to field enough talent to keep up. Chiefs win 31-17.