There is always an edgy feeling going into a matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers. The rivalry is heated, regardless of where each team is at competitively. Clearly, Los Angeles is transitioning into a new mold, given someone other than Philip Rivers is starting at QB for the first time in 15 years. This will also be Kansas City’s first road “test” in an environment with no fans.
What individual position matchups may we be watching out for going into Sunday? Plus, there are keys to victory that should be touched on as well. Let’s kick things off with our game preview.
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Matchups To Watch
Chiefs Defensive Line Vs Chargers Offensive Line
Overall, the Chiefs should not feel too scared of this Chargers blocking unit. Center Mike Pouncey is done for the year and will undergo hip surgery. It has been a constant weakness for the quarterback’s blindside of LA. Sam Tevi will need to continue improve, after a strong effort last week. Meanwhile, veteran Bryan Bulaga could be joined by Trai Turner on the right side, if Turner can return from injury. Having those two will help, but the entire group has their work cut out for them. Certainly, it was an up and down result in Week One.
The pass rush duo of Frank Clark and Chris Jones looked to be on top of their game last week. Their get off was mesmerizing, especially for Clark, who looks to be the healthiest he has been since he was with Seattle a few years ago. Jones shows that you cannot outmuscle him for long. It wasn’t just those two either. With Steve Spagnuolo‘s attack of multiple fronts and looks, Kansas City allows plenty of guys the opportunity to blitz. Meanwhile, the Chiefs registered 24 quarterback pressures last week, which was 60 percent of Deshaun Watson‘s drop backs. If that ability to apply pressure continues, it could be a long day for this feeble Chargers offensive line.
Chiefs Rushing Attack Vs Chargers Front Seven
A usually stout Chargers run defense has been shaky of late. Dating back to late last season, they have been trounced for 99 rushing yards or more by some of the weaker running teams. Seeing the Chiefs be as committed to the run as they were last game was a sight for new eyes. Andy Reid must already trust Clyde Edwards-Helaire enough to feed him over 25 touches per game. A running back receiving that kind of opportunity has been limited during Reid’s tenure in Kansas City. If the Chiefs can continue to get CEH out in space against different looks, good things will come. Meanwhile, Los Angeles must do a better job of tackling and pursuing the football.
Chiefs Cornerbacks Vs Chargers Wide Receivers
Charvarius Ward (broken hand) has officially been ruled out on Sunday. Without him and veteran Bashaud Breeland (suspension), it will be up to the younger cornerbacks to get the job done. Most likely, it will be L’Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton manning the starting roles. The team is extremely high on both guys, and feel they can play in a multitude of spots.
Last week, there were not very many dynamic plays from the Chargers receivers. Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry largely just sat in the soft spots in zone coverage. This is something we have not seen much of from the savvy route runner, in Allen. With a safer quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, that may favor the Chiefs in this game.
3 Keys To Victory- Kansas City
1) Roaming Free
Piggybacking off of that last matchup, it would be wise for Steve Spagnuolo to let the cornerbacks and safeties roam around the field. There is already a good degree of freedom that DBs have received in Spags’ scheme. However, it will be paramount to keep Taylor guessing and uncomfortable. With being indecisive, the Chiefs pass rush could pressure the quarterback at a rapid pace.
2) Continue To Run
It was a breath of fresh air to see how comfortable Reid was in feeding Edwards-Helaire. We just have not seen this level of ball control and willingness to pound the rock. As mentioned beforehand, CEH makes it difficult for tacklers, due to his stalky and shorter frame. Kansas City could already hurt you through the air at will. And now they have the confidence to run it 25 times a game? Good luck.
3) Utilize Misdirection/Screen Game
Given the Chargers recent success on defense against the Chiefs, misdirection could prove to be a big factor. Let Patrick Mahomes cook from outside of the pocket, to keep the defenders off balance. He has proved to be just as lethal outside of the pocket. Moreover, the $500 million dollar man has seemed to feel more at ease with taking off and running the football. Finally, Kansas City very well could call even more screen passes than they already do, which has been a Charger weakness.
3 Keys To Victory- Los Angeles
1) Pound The Rock
Controlling the clock is going to be huge for the Chargers. Generally, most teams need to score 23 or 24 points minimum to keep the Chiefs down. Quite frankly, I just do not see LA as a prolific, high scoring offense. If they only scored 16 (one touchdown) against a weaker Bengals defense, the odds do not look good.
Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley are a nice one-two punch at running back. If Anthony Lynn wants to establish the run, there is no better game in which to do it in. The run defense is likely the weakest part of Kansas City’s unit. Leaning on the slipperiness and power of those two runners can help to limit the Chiefs high flying offense of seeing the field.
2) Force Deep Throws
As crazy as it may sound, LA may be better off forcing Mahomes to connect on deeper passes. Not that Pat is incapable, but he has been baited into bad decisions against the Chargers before. Last year in the Mexico City game, their zone coverage jumped a route perfectly for an interception in the deep middle part of the field. This is a very prideful secondary and they can stay on top of routes better than most teams.
3) Send The House
Los Angeles has a tantalizing pass rush duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Overall, they should feel compelled to continuously let that pair pin their ears back and go. Bosa wins with a diverse set of moves to counteract blockers. On the other hand, Ingram has the bend and dexterity that coaches covet from an EDGE rusher. Not utilizing enough blitz calls with these two may hurt the Chargers chances.
– 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.