The Kansas City Chiefs will look to sweep the AFC West on Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. While Kansas City has been on fire, the Chargers would finish in last place in the division if they lose this game. Can LA play spoiler? Will this be Philip Rivers last appearance as a Charger? Let’s touch on those headlines and others, with our Chiefs versus Chargers game preview.
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Riding Into The Sunset?
If this is Rivers final game with this team, it is fitting that it would come against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs and Chargers rivalry has grown into a greater animosity throughout the quarterback’s NFL tenure. In the first meeting between these two teams this year, Rivers had a sloppy second half. He finished with just one touchdown to four interceptions. Additionally, Kansas City was successful in constantly pressuring Rivers.
This interception filled game is no different than most of his other games this season. He has thrown 18 interceptions in 15 games this year. Furthermore, Rivers has gone interception-less in just six of his outings. His arm has never been among the best in the league. However, the decision making of his is surprising, given his storied and lengthy career.
Where he bested Kansas City the most earlier in the year? It was with short, check down throws. Most notably, the Chiefs were hurt the most by the Chargers running backs. Austin Ekeler has had an unbelievable season as a dual threat back. He has accumulated over 1,400 total yards with 11 total touchdowns. Meanwhile, Melvin Gordon has been playing better lately as well. The Chiefs linebackers will look to slow those guys down on Sunday.
Returning To Form
On the other hand, the Kansas City quarterback has been back to full strength and health the last few weeks. This is the first week that the team did not list Patrick Mahomes on the injury report since entering Week One. Mahomes has been efficient and dazzling at the same time over the last couple of weeks. We were very spoiled with the performance of the Chiefs offense in 2018. But believe it or not, Mahomes has actually improved as a passer this season, in different segments.
He has seen the field better, for the most part. To boot, he is standing in the pocket a lot more consistently, while still knowing when it’s best to try and extend plays. Most of all, Mahomes has not forced as many passes into tight coverage. The chances being taken are more calculated. On Sunday, Mahomes and the Chiefs will look to further expand their hot steak against the Chargers.
Running In Circles
Just when things were looking up for the Chiefs running backs, Spencer Ware suffered a season ending injury. Ware was impressive in his brief return to Kansas City. The Chiefs passing game fed off of his pass protection. He was cutting down opponents or throwing them out of the bar. As of this writing, the Chiefs will enter Sunday with just three active running backs against the Chargers.
Damien Williams had one of his better performances of the season last week. But, the consistency still needs to be seen to gain the trust from the coaching staff. As long as Williams shows the burst and jump in his step that he displayed last game, he will be fine.
Meanwhile, Darwin Thompson‘s opportunity has yo-yoed each week. It seems like the team is waiting for the perfect situation every game before deciding to bring him in. His speed and patience is what has stood out. The Chiefs might as well give him more snaps against the Chargers.
Finally, LeSean McCoy was a healthy scratch last week. Does Kansas City really think he will hold up under pressure? The latest decisions would tell you no.
Utilizing Their Strengths
The Chiefs defense has been one of the top defenses in the league over the last five games. They have allowed just 9.6 points per game over that span. Why has this unit been so successful? Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has smartly let the players utilize their strengths and do what they do best.
Let Tyrann Mathieu line up all over the field to use his instincts to his advantage. Elsewhere, move Kendall Fuller and put him at safety. He was not quite cutting it at nickel, and has now regained grace in the eyes of the Chiefs coaches. If he continues to shine at safety, then that could increase his chances of re-signing with Kansas City. Spags heavy dose of dime personnel has built the confidence of the defensive backs up.
In this package, they use basically one linebacker in Anthony Hitchens. Then, you have six total defensive backs on the field. Four safeties and two cornerbacks, allow for the speed to confuse opposing offenses and quarterbacks for not knowing where to go with the ball. We’ll see how often the Chiefs employ this against the Chargers.
Matchup To Watch: Chiefs Receivers Vs Chargers Secondary
In the first meeting this year, the Chargers were dominant against Kansas City’s pass attack. I would assume that the Chiefs will try different tendencies than the first meeting. Using shorter to intermediate routes would better suit the offense, if LA has a similar game plan at defense. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce have been on a tear lately. Sammy Watkins has also regained his footing in the offense. Also, the Chiefs did not see one of the more impressive young safeties in the first matchup this season. Derwin James will be one of the more eager Chargers players looking to spoil the day for Kansas City. Meanwhile, Casey Hayward has had another underrated campaign on the outside of the Los Angeles defense.
A few players are looking to notch personal milestones on Sunday:
- Travis Kelce needs six receptions to become the first tight end in NFL history to record consecutive seasons of 100 receptions.
- If Patrick Mahomes throws for 300 yards, he would have the most 300 yard passing games in NFL history for a QB under the age of 25.
- Mecole Hardman needs one receiving touchdown to set a franchise record for most receiving touchdowns by a rookie in team history.
- Despite being new to the team, Terrell Suggs needs just one full sack on Sunday to move into eighth place on the NFL’s all time sack list. If he does, Suggs would pass DeMarcus Ware for that spot.
With a Chiefs win, Kansas City would sweep the AFC West for the third time in team history (2016, 1995).
A Kansas City victory would give the Chiefs back to back 12 win seasons for the first time in team history.
In the last five games, Kansas City’s defense has allowed just four touchdowns.
That will wrap up our Chiefs versus Chargers game preview. There will be a lot to watch for on Sunday during the regular season finale. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.