The Chiefs have started stronger than most anyone expected. This week, they’ll try to keep it rolling with their first divisional opponent. The Chargers are an interesting matchup for KC. They have a QB that can be a wizard, a WR that had a social media beef with Marcus Peters, a new city and the same old bad injury luck.
It’s a very important game for the Chiefs to keep pace in the division, and not let up after a great start. Here are a few things we’ll be watching for on Sunday:
WR Keenan Allen vs the other Chiefs CBs
The headlines will be Keenan Allen vs Marcus Peters, but I’m more concerned about Allen vs. Terrance Mitchell, Phillip Gaines and the Chiefs other defensive backs. This Chiefs secondary has a lot to prove after losing two key players to IR. Gaines has been pressed into action and has been a bit frustrating to watch. Terrance Mitchell seems to be playing better as the season progresses and he might be hitting his stride. Nobody runs better routes, especially in the short to intermediate space, than Keenan Allen. Mitchell might be best suited for this matchup, with his short area quickness and WR-frustrating physical style of play. If the Chargers are able to get Allen on Gaines or a safety, he’ll put up big numbers.
The Chiefs OL vs Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram
KC has assembled a solid and improving offensive line that dominated versus the Patriots and survived against the Eagles. This week, they face a good test in the Chargers edge rushers. The Chargers are now a 4-3 defense, after a coaching staff shakeup in the offseason. Bosa and Ingram combined for nearly 20 sacks last season, and are only getting better. The Chiefs feature a stable pair of tackles in Fisher and Schwartz that are capable of shutting down edge rushers. If these guys win their matchups, the Chiefs offense should find plenty of success this week.
The rookie running back is now must-see-TV every week. Hunt has managed to make huge plays on the ground and in the air every game of his career. Perhaps more impressive, he’s been able to grind out positive yardage and keep the chains moving when the big play isn’t there. This week, Hunt should find some running room against the Chargers defense, especially in the zone looks that the Chiefs run so well. I would go so far as to say as Hunt goes, so does the offense. It’s critical that he stays healthy and productive to keep defenses from being able to key in on Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce. Kareem’s running style, burst, toughness and determination make him a dream to watch.
Who gets the ‘escalades’ this week?
The Chiefs have had a rookie of the week, FedEx air and ground player of the week and a defensive player of the week so far. Kareem Hunt and Chris Jones are players on the rise, and we’ll be watching to see if they can continue at this pace. Justin Houston is putting together another All-Pro season, and Alex Smith is on pace for an unrealistic year. Tyreek Hill is a guy that can put up silly numbers and highlight reel plays on any given week, perhaps this is the week that he breaks out again? Perhaps Philip Rivers is foolish enough to test Marcus Peters and he gets his first interception(s) of 2017?
How about the return of Dee Ford, Charger killer?
Dee Ford had the best game of his career against the Chargers in 2015. Seven tackles, three sacks and a game-saving pass defended in the end zone against Danny Woodhead. Ford has a breakout (half) season last year with 10 sacks early before nagging injuries slowed him down. This year, with a healthy and elite Justin Houston on the left side, and a much improved interior pass rush, Ford should be set up for his best season yet. Offenses can’t allocate additional blockers to Dee Ford without Jones and Houston wrecking their plans. Can Ford capitalize starting this week against a questionable Chargers offensive line?
Who loses their cool first?
There will be some BIG personalities on the field this week, with Kelce, Peters and Rivers having been known to lose their cool at times. Kelce is on a dubious streak of three games with an unsportsmanlike conduct/taunting penalty. Peters has been relatively quiet all season, but he might be the most emotional player on the team. Phillip Rivers is one of my favorite internet memes for his tendency to whine, complain and generally pout when things aren’t going his way. Hey, football is an emotional game, and it’s probably no coincidence that the most passionate players are among the best players. Let’s hope that the Chiefs can make Rivers meltdown this week instead of hurting themselves when emotions run high.
It’s time for the Chiefs special teams to make a play
Dave Toub’s group has struggled at times thus far. Week 1, it was poor blocking on returns. Week 2, they allowed an onside kick to go the wrong way at the end of the game. Granted, they forced and recovered a fumble, but the return units haven’t been as special as we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. The Chiefs have clearly been trying to change things up to get a spark on this unit. Jehu Chesson played Week 1 and was inactive Week 2. Akeem Hunt was elevated from the practice squad to play special teams, and looked good doing it. The Chiefs are due for a big return or two, and the Chargers have been victims in the past. Let’s see if they can make it happen again this week.
Watch out for Rivers late in the game
The Chiefs need to bury the Chargers early and not allow Rivers to drive late in the game when within two scores or less. When I think of Phillip Rivers, I think of the phrase a perfect pass beats perfect coverage every time. He has a way to put the ball exactly where it needs to be, especially in crucial situations. He can be deadly on third down and late in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. The Chiefs have done a decent job over the last few games keeping (and taking) the ball out of his hands, but you can never let your guard down against this guy.