This week’s Sunday afternoon slate of NFL games will kick off with the Kansas City Chiefs traveling to play the Los Angeles Chargers. Last season, in the first of two matchups, the Chargers took an early halftime lead of 21-3 and looked unstoppable early.
The Cardiac Chiefs ended up tying the game at the end of regulation at 27-27 to take the affair to overtime. KC won the coin toss and received the ball to start OT, before methodically marching down the field to end it quickly on a two yard Alex Smith rushing touchdown. The second meeting of the two teams saw Kansas City handle things by going up early and never really giving the Chargers an opportunity to crawl back, winning 37-27. Below are a few things I’ll be focusing in on as Sunday afternoon’s action begins:
- Los Angeles has the best tight end group league-wide by a good margin, boasting the likes of future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates and young up-and-comer in Hunter Henry. Both will provide quick outlets for Philip Rivers to try and stymy Kansas City’s rush. It will be interesting to see how Eric Murray and Daniel Sorenson do in coverage against these tight ends, as the young safeties enter their second contest replacing All-Pro Eric Berry in a trial by fire.
- Kareem and the ‘big uglies’ up front must set the tone early and often against L.A’s extremely athletic front seven. The Chargers group is a bit undersized at linebacker and the whole lot is still adjusting to their recent shift to a 4-3 base defense, but they might be one of the most athletic and versatile group in the AFC. If Hunt can play his brand of smash-mouth football early it will set the identity for the game and get the Chargers on their heels.
- KEENAN ALLEN vs. MARCUS PETERS. This is one of the best matchups to watch in the game, a year removed from Keenan Allen’s last game against the Chiefs. Allen was in the midst of a dominant game, having his way with Marcus Peters & Co, when he tore his ACL. Allen has looked very much his old self in the first two games this season, which judging by 2016 week one could be a problem for Peters.
- How will the secondary fare in their second test without their defensive leader, Eric Berry? Ron Parker has quietly been putting together a clinic in versatility and productivity, lining up and taking snaps at multiple spots- holding things down wherever he ends up. He is the unsung hero of this defense in 2017 two games in.
- Quick interior pressure is just what the doctor ordered in week three. Chris Jones is coming off a week that earned him week two’s AFC Defensive Player of the Week award in a week that saw him only play 44% of the defensive snaps. It will be a tall task for the statuesque Rivers if Jones can get the pass rush going early and Bennie Logan and Allen Bailey can push/disrupt the pocket. I’ll be watching how the snaps are divvied out amongst the defensive line, they generally rotate to keep fresh into the final quarters.
- Can Tyreek Hill break a long one? Hill is one of the most fun players around, averaging 47.8 yards per touchdown (13 total TDs) in his young and promising career. He was only sent on a deep route once against Philadelphia, and Alex Smith slightly overshot him. The Eagles front seven was playing so well that it somewhat dictated the Chiefs’ game-plan; they had to get the ball out quickly in a hurry. I think, especially if Kareem Hunt gets going early, there will be a lot more opportunities to go deep against the Chargers. Whether it is an end-around, a screen, a deep bomb, or a special-teams score, I think Andy Reid and Alex Smith will be looking to Tyreek Hill for the explosive play to keep defenses honest.
- DO NOT SLEEP ON THESE CHARGERS, despite being 0-2. For the past three or more years the Chargers have played some very close football games and found new ways to lose in the final quarter. The Los Angeles Chargers are 4-18 in games decided by one score or less since the beginning of the 2015 season. Even though Los Angeles usually loses those types of games, the fact that they are always in it shows that it would be wise not to overlook this team. On paper they have one of the most talented rosters in the league, and any given Sunday could see this team emerge victorious.
In a game that could go either way, especially being a divisional game in the toughest division in football, I expect Kansas City to handle the Chargers with relative ease. Kansas City has numerous playmakers on both sides of the ball to be accounted for and a mad scientist at head coach to scheme and exploit any opposition. The Chiefs locker room seems to be on a mission to show that they belong in the upper echelon in the league and this week is another opportunity for this team to make a statement.
My predicted score: |Chiefs- 37| |Chargers- 21|