Regular season football is finally back!
It’s been a long off season as always and as Chargers fans, even before kick off, we’ve already been through some highs and lows! From injuries to Hunter Henry and now Joey Bosa, to seeing a legend return and seeing a lot of good things done and said within the camp – 2018 is already promising to be another rollercoaster ride for Bolts fans!
The rosters are set, the Thursday night game has opened the season and now it’s the eve of the Kansas City Chiefs @ Los Angeles Chargers. Here’s 5 things to watch for when these two old time rivals square off…
The turnover battle and differential is going to have a huge bearing on the outcome of this game. Last season Philip Rivers threw 10 interceptions, which over the course of the season isn’t bad. What was bad about those picks was that 6 of them came in the two games against Kansas City. No bueno!
The Bolts were beaten pretty comfortably in both games, losing by 14 and 17 points. It would have been much closer without these errors and it’ll be something Rivers needs to minimise on Sunday; much like he did in the other 14 games.
On the flip side, Gus Bradley and the defense will be looking to force some turnovers from Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs new look offense. The Chiefs are going to take more risks in the passing game, the question is, can Los Angeles make them pay?
The Chiefs New, Big Play Offense
I don’t know whether you’ve heard but Kansas City have a new starting quarterback and he goes by the name of Patrick Mahomes II and the dude can sling it.
KC have moved away from Alex Smith and their paper cut offense and have now got a howitzer instead. This coupled with having Tyreek Hill and new recruit Sammy Watkins as their starting wide receivers means Andy Reid’s team are going to go vertical a lot more often nowadays.
This is obviously a shift from their old method of attack; it’s more risky but should lead to more big plays. How do the Bolts cope with that?
Stop The Running Game
Another question for the defense of the Chargers is how they are going to stop the running game of the Chiefs.
L.A. struggled against the run last season and made it a point of emphasis to improve in this facet of the game during the off season, drafting Justin Jones and getting younger and faster at outside linebacker with Uchenna Nwosu and Kyzir White.
It’ll be an acid test in game 1 with last year’s rushing leader rolling into town with his wily old head coach in tow. Reid is a master of play design and will have some tricks up his sleeve for the Chargers in week 1.
The Bolts though, already look a little thin on the ground with Corey Liuget suspended, Jones injured and having lost Joey Bosa this week to a foot injury. Will the Chargers get the big game they need from the likes of Damion Square and Isaac Rochell?
How Do The Chargers Attack Kansas City?
On paper at least, the Chiefs defense looks weaker than it has done in recent times and the Chargers aren’t the only team with injury problems on defense.
It looks likely that star safety, Eric Berry is out for Sunday’s clash and fellow defenders, Allen Bailey, Reggie Ragland and Justin Hamilton have had various injury concerns this week.
Another question is how will the Bolts use their weapons? How will they compensate for the lack of an every down receiving tight end?
What I am hoping to see is Philip Rivers come out and throw it early on. I hope we see the Chargers spread it out with 3 and 4 wide receiver sets and throw it around the field. I’d like to see them mix in all three running backs in the passing game too as well as using them in the group to mix it up a little.
Because to me, this game is won by getting an early lead then allowing the defense to hunt and when the Bolts get the ball back, use those runners to bleed the clock until it’s all zeros.
The Return of #85
Antonio Gates is back in a lightning bolt. Back for his 15th season, the Chargers legend is back to help the team out of a jam, after none of their tight ends were particularly impressive in the pre season.
It’s great to see Gates back; the move was easy and it makes a lot of sense. This isn’t a game changer though, either. Gates isn’t who he once was, he’s not going to be tight end 1, he’s not going to be on the field every down and he may not even be in football shape since he’s 37 and been away from the team for 8 months.
He’s a security blanket; someone who Philip Rivers has a rapport with, each knows what the other is thinking on the field and that is way more valuable than having to build that relationship in limited time with someone like Braedon Bowman or Ben Johnson.
Gates will mainly play on third down and in the red zone because he can’t block anyone and because the Bolts are going to play him sparingly, so it’s going to be to his strengths.
I hope we see him score a couple of TD’s and come up with some big third down grabs on his, final, final farewell tour.
Let’s go Bolts!
– Lee Wakefield is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the Los Angeles Chargers. Follow him on Twitter @Wakefield90