Editor’s note: As we head into Thursday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers, we welcome Michael Peterson of Bolts from the Blue — our sister SBNation site covering the Chargers— for Five Questions with the Enemy.
1) Justin Herbert has made a ridiculous start to his career. Where do you rank him in comparison to the other top quarterbacks in the league?
As of right now, I believe Herbert is somewhere between #6 and #10 in the NFL. Simply due to the fact he hasn’t been in the league a full two years yet, I cannot rank him among the league’s top 5 passers. However, it’s tough not to think he’s got the makings of a future MVP. He’s got a top-3 arm in terms of strength and talent. Plus, he’s incredibly smart and even-keeled. The guy seems unshakable at times. Chargers fans are incredibly lucky to have him.
2) Rashawn Slater looks like he will be out. Will his absence change how the Chargers run their offense?
Slater’s absence will change the offense slightly, but I don’t believe it’ll be anything wild. Joe Lombardi will likely call less deep passing concepts knowing that Trey Pipkins won’t hold up in protection long enough for them to develop — and I could also see them scheming plays away from the left side of the line. The drop in talent from Slater to Pipkins is just so immense. Expect plenty of chips from the running backs, as well.
3) Have the Chargers been as bad as advertised against the run? Are you worried about the Chiefs’ interior offensive line?
The Chargers run defense WAS pretty bad for the first half of the season, but they’ve found a way to turn it around in recent weeks. They’re no longer the worst run defense in the league by average yards allowed which is certainly a step in the right direction. As for being worried about the Chiefs’ interior offensive line, yes. I am worried about them. Creed Humphrey was a phenomenal selection in this year’s draft while the additions of Joe Thuney and Trey Smith were also very key in turning this unit into another formidable group. If the Chargers’ defensive line isn’t on their “A” game, they’ll be toast.
4) Is this the biggest game that the Chargers have played since they moved to LA? Do you think they can handle the pressure?
I think this game is up there, for sure. While a playoff appearance doesn’t hang in the balance, a potential divisional crown is. If the Chargers manage to sweep the Chiefs this year, they should be favored in their final three games — which means a potential 12-5 final record is also in reach. That’d be one heck of a first year under Brandon Staley — most definitely beyond any and all expectations set for the rookie head coach.
5) How does this one play out? Score prediction?
I think this is a shootout from start to finish. Both Mahomes and Herbert will put on a show that inevitably comes down to the final drive. In the end, I don’t think the Chargers have what it takes to sweep the Chiefs. I predict a close win for Kansas City: 33-31.