On Sunday the Kansas City Chiefs face the Los Angeles Chargers. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Kansas City is favored to win. We welcome Michael Peterson of Bolts from the Blue — our sister SBNation site covering the Chargers — for Five Questions with the Enemy.
1. An offseason full of promise hasn’t really materialized into results as yet. What’s happened?
Injuries. Lots and lots of injuries. It’s honestly become comical at this point. For fun, let’s go through a quick list of what the Chargers have been missing for some, if not all, of this season:
WR1, WR2, WR4, TE1, TE2, LT1, RT1, RB2, DT1a, DT3, DT4, EDGE1, EDGE3, CB1, K1, K2
In all, by the end of the 49ers game, the Chargers were without nine starts and six other legitimate role players. I don’t know how many teams wouldn’t simply crumble after all of these losses but it’s a testament to the Chargers that they’ve managed to even get to 5-4.
I also feel like I’d be wrong not to add some more context here, especially when it comes to J.C. Jackson’s play prior to his injury. I don’t know who WASN’T surprised by it, but Jackson coming in and being one of the worst defenders on the team in his first season in powder blue was not on my radar at all. After 17 interceptions over the past two seasons, he failed to snag one before the injury and only had two pass breakups, as well. He allowed multiple touchdowns and was on pace to have his worst season by a mile had he held up for all 17 games. It was truly a train wreck, but I honestly hope the time off allows him the time to gather himself and figure out why his first season away from the Patriots was such a far cry from what he was used to in New England
2. I’ve seen rumblings about the offense and how it doesn’t help Justin Herbert. Do you share those concerns? What would you like to see changed?
I’d say both yes and no. The offense and what it’s trying to accomplish with the current state of the roster does not fit what Justin Herbert wants to do. But that’s outside of Herbert’s control. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi makes his fair share of questionable decisions on a weekly basis, but he’s working with a bunch of practice squad wideouts and recently told the media that the offense has zero speed right now. They are unable to stretch the field at all which limits the playbook quite a bit. We’re all tired of seeing the offense run a dozen variations of Stick, but that’s most of what they can execute well enough. The offensive line isn’t holding up well enough and I think this is a misunderstanding for many outside of the Chargers fan base. They may employ one of the best centers in the NFL, but the Chargers offensive line has been below average for the majority of the season. So all in all, Herbert has had one of the worst supporting casts in the league this year and when you consider things such as WAR lost due to injuries, the Bolts are blowing everyone else out of the water.
3. There are going to be a lot of teams going for playoff spots. How many wins do you think the Chargers need to get in? Will they get there?
I think at the minimum, the Chargers need to get to 9-8 to have a chance. I believe 10-7 is the magic number to ensure a spot, however. Weirdly enough, I believe both of those records are within reach, especially if the current roster can win just one, maybe two more games, to ensure that once reinforcements arrive off of injured reserve, they’ll be able to hit the ground running over the final month of the season.
The way I see it, if the Chargers lose this week to the Chiefs and fall to 5-5, they would need to go 5-2 over the final seven games to make it 10-7. A record of 4-3 sounds much more realistic, but the final seven games truly are all winnable outside of maybe the contest against Miami. Either way, a 9-8 or 10-7 record is awfully admirable, especially after the laundry list of injuries this team has suffered through this season.
4. With Mike Williams and Keenan Allen still on the injury list, which pass-catcher can fill the void and potentially grab themselves a touchdown?
If Allen and Williams remain out for another week, Joshua Palmer is truly the only real NFL wide receiver who will be on the field for the Chargers. Michael Bandy and Jason Moore have been near non-existent over the past few weeks and one of the guys signed off the street — Keelan Doss — was inactive in week 10. The Bolts were more than happy to play with just three wide receivers against the Niners and if anyone has the ability to pull down a score, it’s far and away Palmer.
I will throw in tight end Gerald Everett as another potential option to find the end zone, but he’s currently dealing with a groin injury that took him out of the 49ers game before it hit the halfway point. He’s currently day-to-day and may also not be available against the Chiefs.
5. The Chiefs are 6.5-point favorites. Is that a fair line? Let’s have your score prediction.
I believe that’s more than a fair line. After losing three of their top four defensive tackles over the past 10 days, the Chargers will be forced to sign several new players off the street to compete there prior to this Sunday’s game. If they can’t find enough reinforcements, it won’t matter if the secondary can limit Mahomes through the air, they will just be able to run it at will all day long. Even with the potential for Allen/Williams to return this week, the offense hasn’t been efficient enough to keep up with much of anyone, nonetheless the Chiefs. This could be another rough outing which could ultimately send the Chargers back to .500 on the year.