Chiefs vs. Chargers 2013: 5 things to know about the regular season finale

The Chiefs are already locked into the No. 5 seed which means Sunday's game in San Diego is meaningless for Kansas City. But what does it mean for the Chargers? We spoke with John Gennaro of SB Nation's Chargers blog, Bolts From The Blue, to learn a little more about the Chargers ahead of Sunday's game.

1. Name one Chargers offensive player the Chiefs will have to watch out for.

Ryan Mathews!

Against the Chiefs in Week 12, the Chargers RB ran for 55 yards (and a touchdown) on 14 carries. Since then, here's what he's done:

14 carries, 61 yards vs. CIN
29 carries, 103 yards, 1 TD vs. NYG
29 carries, 127 yards, 1 TD vs. DEN
25 carries, 99 yards, 1 TD vs. OAK

Let it be re-stated that the Denver game was FOUR DAYS after the Giants game. I have no idea how Mathews is still standing after this onslaught, but he seems to be getting stronger every week. He's playing the best football of his life and is a big reason why San Diego has won three games in a row.

2. Name one Chargers defensive player the Chiefs will have to watch out for.

Safety Jahleel Addae. Let my try and explain what has happened with the Chargers defense in a regular way, because it makes no sense.

  • Derek Cox, signed in the offseason to be the Chargers' No. 1 CB, has been benched indefinitely.
  • Johnny Patrick, who was the team's 4th CB for much of the season, went on IR.
  • Melvin Ingram, who tore his ACL in May (THIS May), returned to the field and is already the team's best pass-rusher (again).
  • Marcus Gilchrist, who was the team's starting strong safety for most of the season, was moved back to nickel CB, where he played in years past.
  • NT Cam Thomas was benched in favor of Sean Lissemore, a 3-4 DE traded for just before Week 1.
  • Donald Butler and Jarrett Johnson finally got healthy-ish
  • Special teams star Darrell Stuckey is being trusted to play defense for the first time since being drafted in 2010.

So, what's the end result?

Well, Stuckey and Addae appear to be the team's starting safeties now and primarily play deep coverage. Eric Weddle is playing some twisted "Joker" position that looks like something Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano came up with in a fever dream. He looks like Troy Polamalu in his prime, running all over the field and seemingly doing whatever he wants on any given play (and affecting just about every play in a positive way). Weddle and Gilchrist blitz early and often and are really, really good at it. Ingram and Johnson are generating pass-rush on their own on top of that. Manti Te'o is being pulled on passing downs and looks better on early downs now that Butler has gotten back to being 100 percent.

Basically, the corners are getting a ton of help (which they needed) from the safeties and ILBs because everyone else is generating a pass-rush on just about every passing play, while playing good run defense as well. A good pass-rush fixes everything and Pagano is coming up with some really creative ways of covering up his defense's weakness.

Oh, back to Jahleel Addae. He's an undrafted rookie and a bit of a missile if someone catches a pass over the middle. He's the final piece of the mad puzzle. Deep coverage from safeties and a good pass rush eliminates passes downfield. Addae eliminates short passes over the middle. Keep your eye out for him.

3. Where do you stand on the idea of resting starters? If you were Andy Reid, would you rest the Chiefs starters?

I think you have to approach it on a case-by-case basis, really. However, Reid has been so unbelievably successful after bye weeks during the regular season that you know his team is going to be stronger in their first playoff game if they get a week off. Also, one of the reasons that the Chiefs have turned around so quickly is because of health. They've been lucky because they don't have a tremendous amount of depth. San Diego saw that firsthand when Tamba Hali and Justin Houston went down in the Week 12 game. If you play your starters and Jamaal Charles or Alex Smith get injured in a meaningless game, you've basically ruined any chances you have of winning that first playoff game.

On top of that, if the Chargers do sneak into the playoffs, there's a chance they have to face the Chiefs again. If you were Andy Reid, would you want to show the Chargers coaching staff anything in this game that they could use against you in a meaningful game in a few weeks? Absolutely not. Treat it like a Week 4 preseason game. No starters, nothing but vanilla in the gameplan.

4. What are the Chargers playing for this weekend? What's their scenario to get in? Will they know before the Chiefs game whether they have a shot?

They'll know by kickoff if the game means anything. The Chargers needs the Bengals to beat the Ravens, and for the Jets to beat the Dolphins, to have a shot. Both of those games should be wrapping up around the time the Chargers and Chiefs are taking the field.

It's not impossible, but it's not the easiest path ever. If both of those happen, look for the Chargers to come out with their hair on fire against KC.

5. The Chiefs always lose in San Diego, or so it seems. What's your prediction on the game?

I'm an optimist. My prediction is that the Bengals beat the Ravens, the Jets beat the Dolphins, and the Chargers' starters stomp on the Chiefs' backups to the tune of a 14-20 point victory.

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