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Chiefs’ Market Movers heading into Week 18 vs. Chargers

The Kansas City Chiefs head to Los Angeles for their final game of the regular season. Who’s trending up and who’s trending down?

Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

The final week of the NFL season is like the final week of the preseason. Teams like the Kansas City Chiefs that have locked in their postseason seeding will use this opportunity to showcase and develop their young players and rest some of their veterans. But that doesn’t mean the team shouldn’t want to win this game.

Somehow, 11-6 feels far better than 10-7. There is a certain level of momentum that could carry forward from the win over the Bengals, but it could be lost if the team is a mess against the lowly Los Angeles Chargers.

Here are a few who may be trending heading into the Week 18 matchup in Los Angeles:

Bulls

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah: The rookie first-round pick has seen some game action but has been pretty quiet this season. Most weeks, he’s buried on the depth chart behind some pass rushers who have been playing at a high level. Against the Chargers, he’ll have a chance to show what he’s learned in the process. There’s no doubt he’ll be a Chief next season, but Anudike-Uzomah has a chance to show he deserves a bigger role. To do so, he’ll need to get to Chargers quarterback (checks notes) Easton Stick. But Anudike-Uzomah will also have to show he can hold up in the run game and not get fooled too much when the Chargers throw to their backs.

Wide receiver Justyn Ross: The hype train derailed when Ross faced legal troubles and was suspended, but it seems to be full steam ahead this week. Everyone’s favorite potential diamond-in-the-free-agency-rough has a chance to show he’s a legitimate threat this week. If he’s able to make even a couple of plays, it could allow him to build on the red-zone snaps he’s gotten recently and perhaps actually help this team in the postseason. They could use him.

Safety Chamarri Conner: For those who only watch the box scores, Chamarri Conner hasn’t stood out this season, other than his Week 10 interception of Josh Allen. But anyone watching Chiefs games would absolutely notice No. 27 flying around the field on special teams and as a safety. He’s gotten better each week, and he should have a huge role against the Chargers with L’Jarius Sneed out. A good postseason run for Conner could lessen the need to invest in the position and/or help soften the blow if negotiations with Sneed go poorly.

Others trending in the right direction this week: Drue Tranquill, Mecole Hardman, George Karlaftis, Charles Omenihu, Isiah Pacheco

Bears

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Linebacker Jack Cochrane: We’re excited to see some young players get more time on the field this week, but there are others who could be exposed to more prominent roles. Jack Cochrane has been a staple on special teams but hasn’t seen much action on defense this season other than the Green Bay game. In that game, he made a few tackles, including two for losses. But he was also picked on a bit and missed some opportunities. This week against the Chargers, watch for No. 43 on defense. He could show he’s improving, or he could be exposed to the ire of Chiefs fans.

Wide receiver/returner Richie James: We’ve been waiting all season for Richie James to find a role as a reliable veteran in the Chiefs wide receiver room. He was pretty good against the Raiders with a 45-yard reception but did little to follow that performance up against the Bengals last week. He’s got the ability to do much of what Kadarius Toney was supposed to do, but it feels like time is running out for James to make an impact. He’ll probably still return punts and/or kicks, but his recent decision-making in that regard hasn’t been great. So, we’ll see what the Chiefs do with James this week and into the postseason, but he might be an afterthought.

Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling: If he were helping to lead the wide receiver room, he probably would get the day off. The fact that Valdes-Scantling could play a significant amount against the Chargers says one of two things. Either he’s being given some extra reps to get back on track before a playoff run, where he’ll have a significant role. Or he’s getting an audition for his next team. Even if Valdes-Scantling has a big Sunday afternoon, it will be with backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert. So he doesn’t even have any chance of building chemistry or trust with Patrick Mahomes this week. Be wary of any production you see from Valdes Scantling this week; it could be fools gold.

Others trending in the wrong direction this week: Mike Edwards, Jawaan Taylor, Wayna Morris, Blake Bell, Kadarius Toney

Value (Sleeper) Pick: EDGE BJ Thompson

Syndication: The Commercial Appeal Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Anudike-Uzomah is the more obvious player to watch on the Chiefs defensive front, but his fellow rookie could be even more exciting if he gets the chance to get after the quarterback this week. BJ Thompson was the team’s fifth-round pick and could make his debut against the Chargers. He’s a speedy, bendy rusher with a ton of athletic upside. But he’s also been considered raw and deficient against the run. He should at least get some snaps on third downs this week, where his speed rush could be impactful. Even if he’s just a situational pass rusher, it’d be nice to see what he can do.

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