On this week’s game preview edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory, we talked about three points on offense — and three on defense — to watch as the Kansas City Chiefs close out the regular season against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Patrick Mahomes is off the injury report
Patrick Mahomes has dealt with nagging injuries the entirety of the season, but he is finally off the injury report this week and it comes at the perfect time. The reigning MVP is peaking as he heads into his final tuneup before the postseason. If he and the offense continue to build off the positive signs we’ve seen in the last few games, a healthy Mahomes could go on a run in the playoffs and remind people of the generational talent he possesses.
Pass protection from the running backs
Just when it looked like things were getting sorted out in pass protection and confidence was building from the pocket Mahomes, a vital piece of that success goes on injured reserve. Spencer Ware is done for the year after a brief stint in Kansas City that had improved pass protection significantly. The pressure will be on Damien Wiliams, LeSean McCoy and Darwin Thompson to hold up for the most important games of the year.
Derwin James’ return
The Chiefs have yet to see one of the most talented safeties in football this season. Derwin James missed the first game at Estadio Azteca and most of the season for the Chargers. James is a blue-chip player who has top-shelf athleticism and a diverse skill set that allows him to be utilized in a variety of ways. The Chargers defense has looked better since his return.
Dime personnel usage
Craig Stout talked about the heavy utilization of dime personnel last week. The Chiefs used dime personnel 85% of the game and employed four safeties on the field. With the Bears trying to include Mitchell Trubisky in the run game with zone-read plays, the lighter personnel helped the Chiefs counter that. You’re not going to see Philip Rivers involved, but perhaps they’ll keep showing it more for their playoff opponent.
The Chiefs’ pass rush vs. a beat-up Chargers offensive line
The same storyline from the first matchup of these two teams remains in this one. The Chargers offensive line has seen multiple injuries along the way, and the Chiefs’ pass rush should find success. Right tackle Russell Okung will again miss the game, which means Trey Pipkins could be out there at tackle again.
Defenders peaking at the right time
It’s been a process for this defense that has lasted the entire season. Steve Spagnuolo has continued to build, and the defense has come on strong as the year has gone on. The work is not finished yet for this group, as Spagnuolo continues to figure things out about the personnel and what works. Kendall Fuller’s recent usage is a prime example. What players finish strong in Week 17 will be interesting.
Arrowhead Pride Laboratory
We went into further detail on these storylines — and listed players we’re looking forward to watching — on this week’s game preview edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory.