Chargers at Chiefs: Game of the Year in the AFC?
By Julie Voigt and Russell S. Baxter (VIBE)
Special to Pro Football Guru
Week 15 is upon us, and it’s a time in the NFL season where every last game means a little more to a playoff contender. On Thursday night, two of the hottest teams in the AFC will collide as the Los Angeles Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs collide for the second time this year.
A victory by Anthony Lynn’s team puts the franchise in the postseason for the first time since 2013. A win by the host Chiefs gives them a third straight division title. And if the New England Patriots fall at Pittsburgh on Sunday, Andy Reid’s club will have home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
It all adds up to the biggest Thursday night game of the season. And every last contest means a little more.
Of course, the Bolts will be looking to snap a nine-game losing streak in this longtime divisional rivalry that dates back to 2014. And the team has also dropped four in a row at Arrowhead Stadium. But these Chargers are 5-1 on the road this season, including victories at Seattle and at Pittsburgh.
Lynn’s squad has won three straight and nine of their last 10 games after a 1-2 start. The 11-2 Chiefs are co-owners of the best record in the NFL and have prevailed in six of their last seven outings.
Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers has been tremendous this season. But Chiefs’ second-year signal-caller Patrick Mahomes has been sensational. The latter leads the NFL with 43 touchdown passes in just 13 games. Kansas City boasts the number-one ranked offense in terms of total yards per game and has scored an NFL-best 471 points. Amazingly, Los Angeles is eighth in the league in fewest yards per game allowed and has surrendered only 270 points this season. But 38 of those points came in a 10-points Week 1 home loss to Reid’s team.
A year ago, Anthony Lynn took over the Chargers and the club got off to a 0-4 start. Since then, this club is a combined 19-6 in its last 25 games. Of course, two of those six setbacks were at the hands of the Chiefs.
And in this contest, the Bolts could be without running backs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. But rookie Justin Jackson, a seventh-round pick in April, has given the ground attack a spark when called upon. The Chargers rank 12th in the NFL in rushing, a big improvement from a year ago when the team finished 24th in the league in the same category.
But the key will be stopping Mahomes and getting pressure on the young quarterback. And the Bolts will have defensive end Joey Bosa, who wasn’t around when the teams met in Week 1 and missed the first eight games of 2018. He looked rusty in his return in Week 10 against the Broncos but he’s racked up four sacks in the past three games.
And here’s a number to keep in mind when you watch this key showdown. The Chargers have totaled 32 sacks in 13 outings this year, 30 in their 10 victories and a combined three quarterback traps in their losses to the Chiefs (1), Rams (1) and Broncos (0). That’s some serious food for thought when enjoying your tailgating at Kansas City on Thursday night.
Julie Voigt (@JulieNoted_NFL) and Russell S. Baxter (@BaxFootballGuru) are the co-founders of@NFL_VIBE. Julie is also the Colts’ reporter forOurTurf Footballwhile Russell writes forFanSidedandNFL Spin Zone.