The Kansas City Chiefs are the kings of the National Football League through two weeks of play. And it’s kind of strange, isn’t it? You’re not used to it. It’s hard to wrap your head around. Because it’s the same team that plays in the same place and wears the same red and gold uniforms you watched finish with a losing record nine times between 1998 and 2012.
It’s unfamiliar territory—kings.
But it’s true—it’s actually true. Since 2013 and Andy Reid’s arrival, the Chiefs haven’t had a losing record, and as far as this season goes, they’ve likely already beat two teams that will appear in this year’s playoffs.
So what does this weekend offer in their first divisional matchup?
In the unfamiliar territory of Los Angeles, California, I argue that it offers confirmation. In the first two weeks of the season, you may have been unsure if the Chiefs should win. This weekend, you know it.
“The division games are always big,” quarterback Alex Smith said this week. “I just think this division, the parity from top to bottom is so crazy. Everyone is playing at such a high level. I don’t know if I have ever seen anything like this with what is going on in this division right now. I know they are 0-2, but they are two kicks from being 2-0. It is still a really good football team.”
The Chargers were 4-16 in one-score games since 2015 entering this season, and they’ve added two close losses to that tally through their first two weeks.
The biggest difference between the Chargers last year and the Chargers this year is that wide receiver Keenan Allen, Philip Rivers’ favorite target, is healthy.
“Highly competitive guy,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said this week. “He’s very explosive in and out of his cuts. Every route he runs, he runs hard. Whether he’s the primary guy or not, he runs like he’s getting the ball every play.”
Before he tore his ACL at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 1 last year, Allen was having a fantastic game. He had six receptions for 63 yards, most of which came going directly against Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters.
When the Chiefs played the Chargers again in Week 17, Allen went to Twitter to talk about it.
I know who happy I'm not playing this week! Haha #bum— Keenan Allen (@Keenan13Allen) December 29, 2016
The Peters-Allen matchup is a must-watch this week.
Other weapons for the Chargers include WR Tyrell Williams and the 22-year-old tight end, Hunter Henry. Henry is the Chargers’ successor to 37-year-old Antonio Gates, who eclipsed Tony Gonzalez’s career touchdown record last week.
The Chargers running back, Melvin Gordon, mysteriously appeared on the injury report (knee) on Thursday of this week and is listed as questionable for the game. If he for some reason doesn’t play, it could have a major impact.
On defense, the players to watch are the edge rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. If the Chiefs offensive line can contain that pressure, Smith could have his way with a Chargers secondary missing starting cornerback Jason Verrett.
A likely recipient of the football is tight end Travis Kelce, who took his third personal foul in as many games last week against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Reid addressed the Kelce situation this week.
“It was obvious that I wasn’t real happy about it,” Reid said. “He gets caught up in the emotion of the game. One thing that you love about Travis is that he plays. He comes back and he is diving over people. He leapt at the 5-yard line and dives over someone and scores a touchdown. You can’t take stuff away from yourself. You can’t do that with your defense. He kind of got it from all different angles. The players got upset with him, we all love him, but you can’t do things that take away from what you are trying to accomplish here. You have to curb your emotions. Somewhere, he needs to do that.”
The expectation is that penalty streak ends Sunday while the Chargers’ losing continues. By all signs thus far, the Chiefs are Super Bowl contenders.
An unfamiliar description for a team heading into unfamiliar territory.