Here’s a quick look at what the AP Nerd Squad think the keys to success on both sides of the ball are for the Chiefs in their week one match-up against the Chargers:
Craig: The Chargers boast some great offensive weapons with running back Melvin Gordon, as well as wide receivers Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, and Travis Benjamin. They’re missing last year’s breakout tight end, Hunter Henry due to injury, but they upgraded the middle of their offensive line this offseason with the addition of center Mike Pouncey. The Chargers were already an athletic run-blocking team with their previous offensive line, and Pouncey should make them even more dangerous running the ball. In the passing game, quarterback Phillip Rivers does a good job getting the ball to his playmakers when he has time to examine the field. However, the moment he gets moved off of his spot by any amount of defensive pressure, Rivers has a tendency to make very poor decisions and throw ill-advised passes. With the Chargers offensive line being much better run blockers than pass blockers, these throws have come at an increasing rate over the past few years.
Key player to watch (Kent): Tyrell Williams. As amazing as Keenan Allen (and believe me, he’ll get his production), the big play potential of Williams is what could ultimately lead to trouble for the Chiefs’ defense on Sunday. Williams averaged nearly 17 yards per catch in 2017 and ranked fifth in the NFL in that category. The Chiefs need to limit explosive plays to give themselves the best chance to win. Williams is a big threat to increase the volume of explosive plays.
If Williams is having success, it could indicate that Rivers is not being moved off of his spot and allowing completions in rhythm to a player who is one of the best YAC receivers in all of football.
How the Chiefs defense wins (Craig): BRING. THE. HEAT. Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has seen more of Rivers than any other quarterback in his tenure with the team, and he’s had tons of success against him. Bob typically finds ways to bring rushers from different positions, putting Chris Jones, Dee Ford and Justin Houston in good positions to create pressure on Rivers and the Chargers offense. While the personnel who intercepted the six passes against the Chargers last year is largely gone, Rivers is pretty generous giving the ball away to everyone, so watch for some poor throws under duress this week. Additionally, the Chiefs front seven must have sound run discipline to recognize the Chargers blockers in space, as well as holding the point of attack with their defensive line to corral the running backs.
To see the Xs and Os (visually and more thoroughly explained) of exactly how the Chiefs can attack the Chargers offense make sure to check out the Advanced Scouting Report Film Preview: Defensive Edition.
Matt: The Chargers defense starts and begins with the superstars on either end of formation; Melvin Ingram, Casey Hayward and the potential of Derwin James (Remember, Joey Bosa will not play in this game). The Chargers’ overall scheme is relatively simple, as most of the time the Chargers’ will be running a variation of Cover 3 and their second most common coverage call will be Cover 1 man which maintains that single-high safety appearance. Their pass rush isn’t overly complex, just relying on Bosa and Ingram to generate pressure by winning their individual matchups, and their most complex usage is when lined up next to each other utilizing inside/outside stunts.
The meat and potatoes of the Chargers defense up the middle (DTs, ILBs, and SS) are relatively mediocre and excel at doing their job but rarely will make a difference on any given play. The addition of Derwin James is still a work in progress in terms of team cohesion but he provides much more versatility than Tre Boston allowing them to be more fluid in their Cover 3/6 adjustments making the hot reads a little trickier.
Key player to watch (Kent): Melvin Ingram. The pressure to generate pressure will primarily fall on Ingram this week, as Bosa has been ruled out for Week 1. The player that can most disrupt the rhythm of young Patrick Mahomes will be the seventh-year EDGE from South Carolina. If the Chiefs are able to slow down Ingram, it’ll go a long way in being able to protect Mahomes and allow him opportunities to get the ball to his playmakers scattered around the field.
How the Chiefs offense wins (Matt): The Chiefs offense got the good news that Joey Bosa would not be available for the game this Sunday which sidelines the Chargers best pass rusher as well as a top tier run defender on their squad. In order for the Chiefs to take full advantage of this defense missing their best player, they will need to attack the empty space left underneath by the Chargers’ Cover 3 defense and add yards after the catch to their receptions.
As the Chargers are forced to counter this with faster, lighter defenders in their nickel and dime packages to limit the easy yards Andy Reid is able to manufacture, the Chiefs should follow suit of last year and go back to 11 and 12 personnel and run the ball with some of the gap and man running schemes they flashed in the preseason. As the Chargers second-level defenders are being forced to react quickly to the running game to avoid getting pushed around, the Chiefs should be able to mix in some play-action passes to intermediate and deep zones as the hook/curl defenders are being pulled forward. With Bosa being sidelined, this should allow the Chiefs an extra second to carry out the deeper route combinations.
To see the Xs and Os (visually and more thoroughly explained) of exactly how the Chiefs can attack the Chargers defense make sure to check out the Advanced Scouting Report Film Preview: Offensive Edition.
Nerd squad predictions
Craig: The Chiefs defense without Eric Berry creates all kinds of question marks in the secondary, but that’s nothing the Chiefs haven’t seen before. The Chiefs held the Chargers to 10 and 13 points in their two matchups in 2017 with a mishmash of bodies in the secondary. With the Chargers missing Joey Bosa, as well as Jason Verrett and Corey Liuget, the Chiefs offense gets rolling and the defense holds. Chiefs 27-14.
Matt: Losing Eric Berry for this game definitely affects the Chiefs defense quite a bit but it pales in comparison to what losing Bosa does for the Chargers who historically have struggled to stop KC. In typical Andy Reid fashion, we have barely scratched the surface of what the Chiefs are going to bring to the table offensively and defensively. Andy Reid with extra time to prepare for a defense that isn’t exactly innovative and designed to stop traditional Reid staples (horizontal passing and screen game) should be in line for another big game. While the Chargers offense should be poised to beat up the Chiefs defense, the same should have happened last year and simply didn’t as Sutton has always game planned well vs Rivers. Chiefs 27-13
Kent: The loss of Bosa for the Chargers makes me more confident that the Chiefs can go to a soccer stadium and beat a team on their rented field. The Chiefs should be able to protect Mahomes enough to allow him time to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers. The defense needs to affect Rivers just enough to slow the Chargers offense down in a shootout. Chiefs 31-27