“Tale of Two Teams”
Is Thursday night here yet…it almost is.
The Chargers-Chiefs game is for first place in the AFC-West. Two teams that went thru hot streaks and bad spells, and are almost even-steven in style, talent and possibly even coaching.
Kansas City is not what they used to be, the last couple of years, explosive and dangerous everytime they touched the ball. They’re not what they were early in the season, when they could not stop turning the ball over and could not stop anyone.
They are winning, bringing a 6-game win string into So Fi Stadium.
The Chargers had the red hot start, building off last years strong finish, then slumped at midseason, and are now rolling on, thanks to a coaching staff that has made adjustments. They are playing the most important game they have played in years.
At stake, not just a playoff spot, but 1st place, home field advantage with a red hot quarterback. When was the last time you could say that about the Chargers? Maybe in the midst of the Marty Schottenheimer-Philip Rivers-Ladanian Tomlinson-Antonio Gates era. And that was a long time ago.
Justin Herbert, a combo clone of John Elway’s athletic dynamics, Peyton Manning’s smarts and Tom Brady’s edge, has crashed thru the 3,000-yard passing barrier again, and has put 30-balls in the end zone.
Patrick Mahomes, surviving his early season turnover spree, brings with him a (47-12) career record, 141-TD passes, two Super Bowl appearances and a ring too.
Both team hit the field Thursday night with health issues, covid issues, nagging injury issues.
The Chargers won’t have the hot rookie left tackle Rashawn Slater, because of cover. But KC won’t have, we think he will be held out, Chris Jones their brute strong inside defensive tackle.
KC is different on defense now than the team the Chargers beat at Arrowhead early in the year. Big defensive end Frank Clarke is back healthy. Linebacker Melvin Ingram came in a trade deadline deal, and has added some zest to the pass rush. The woeful pass defense is getting better and Tyrann Mathieu is playing like he normally does, ballhawking.
The Bolts will throw down the field, with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams having combined to catch (147) passes and 11-touchdowns, accounting for (1844) in yards.
But KC counters with Travis Kelce-Tyreek Hill, who have hauled in 163-passes, for over 1900-yards and 13-scores.
Neither one runs the ball effectively, but both throw to their backs. Of concern, the gimpy ankle of Austin Ekeler. KC for the first time this year is healthy with both Darrell Williams and Clyde Hellire, running some, but catching more out of the backfield.
The Bolts are averaging 385-yards a game on offense. The Chiefs 389-yards
The Chargers are hitting on 45% of their 3rd down opportunities. KC a stunning 50%
Both have defensive issues. KC can’t stop the pass, ranked 26th giving up 252-in the air.
LA is 31st against the run, allowing 140-yards per game
The Chiefs are electric with special teams…ranked 1st in punt return yards, 7th in punting, 1st in kickoff coverage and 1st in punt coverage
The Bolts are near the bottom in the not-so-special teams stats, 25th in punting, 32nd in punting average, 21st in kick coverage and 29th in punt coverage.
The old war horse that is Andy Reid, is (14-6) against the Chargers and known for his ability to attack a team with things never seen before, and then make critical adjustments in the game.
Brandon Staley emptied his prize package offense in the first half of the season, so there probably won’t be a lot of new things he can unveil. But he does have the Hollywood quarterback making plays Sunday-by-Sunday.
The one thing that is different about KC right now, is the use of Mecole Hardman, Darrell Williams, Bryan Pringle and Clyde Helaire, adding diversity to what Mahomes has in special down and distance packages.
The keys to this shootout. Can Herbert get the ball downfield before the KC pass rush gets him. Let’s be honest, Storm Norton and Trey Pipkins might be the weakest pair of tackles in the league to start a game this weekend.
Can the banged up Chargers, Ekeler’s ankle, Mike Williams knee, Jared Cook’s quad keep them making big plays?
For KC, an improving offense line will face a much better group of pass rushers, led by Joey Bosa and red-hot Uchenna Nwosu.
Can the Chargers linebackers cover the crossing patters Mahomes will throw? Can a young secondary, that has injury problems, not get scorched by Hill and KC speed merchants deep.
Who accounts for Mahomes moving the pocket and running the ball.
Of course the same can be said about KC’s back seven. Will Steve Spagnolo’s defensive looks slow Herbert down. Can the KC secondary run with the bigger wideouts, Williams, Josh Palmer and Jaylen Guyton?
Does somebody break a big play on special teams?
This will be fun for these two teams are very different now than they were early in the season.
Wondering if there will be more Chiefs red that Bolts blue in the stand too?s.
It will be a dandy.
Count on this, big pass plays, possibly turnovers, and the importance of the kicking game and bad field position.
Can you say 39-35?. Can you say 900-yards in offense?.
I can’t say who wins, but I fear KC is healthier that the Chargers. But don’t count out Herbert in this gunslingers game with Mahomes.
Is it Thursday night yet?