Tonight's Thursday night match up isn't your ordinary mid-week division rivalry game. Nope, this battle in L.A. between the Chiefs and Chargers is for first place in the AFC West. The winner of this game could be the difference between winning the division or being a wild card team on the road in the first round of the playoffs.
And we should be in for a treat as we have two of the leagues best young quarterbacks squaring off under the spotlight. Patrick Mahomes is used to the lights shining bright on him and excelling in those moments. Justin Herberts sample size is a bit smaller but pretty impressive.
Both QB's have been gifted with great weapons like their arm but also offensively when you talk about Kansas City with the incredible play making ability of Tyreek Hill, the always reliant and top Tight End in the NFL in Travis Kelce to go along with a suddenly productive running game with the return of Clyde Edwards-Helaire and mixing in Darrel Williams. Both backs are also solid recievers catching the rock out of the backfield.
The Chargers are lit up with pass cathers and stars on their offense as well. It feels like Keenan Allen has been in the league for 20 years and is always a dangerous weapon. Especially when you pair him on the other side with Mike Williams who has managed to stay healthy and help his team win games. Austin Ekeler is still one of the most underrated Running Backs in the NFL for some reason when we all know he can run between the tackles, around the tacklers and avoid being tackled. Not to mention his excellent pass catching abilities on check downs and other routes.
The Chiefs have the 4th ranked offense in the NFL wheras the Chargers have the 6th right behind K.C. The Chargers and Chiefs are ranked 5th and 6th in the league respectively in regards to passing yards per game. Both teams are in the middle of the pack in rushing, but that's mainly because they're both predominantly throwing ball clubs.
Kansas City's defense came out of the gate slow and sluggish. The second they put Chris Jones back in on the interior defensive line, this unit has become one of the best in the league allowing just 20.6 points per game, ranked 6th in the league. The Chargers on the other hand have been quite inconsistent on the defensive side of the ball, especially when it comes to theopposing teams run game. The Bolts are ranked 31st when it comes to points per game. That's a bad thing when you're going up against Patrick Mahomes and his friends.
So how will this major match up turn out? We know the home team on Thursday Night Football has had a distinct advantage in these short weeks. Both teams have less time to prepare but they also know each other pretty well.
My guess is Los Angeles will double up Tyreek Hill like many teams have this year. I would consider sticking Safety Derwin James on Travis Kelce but James is still banged up with a hamstring which kept the Pro-Bowler out of the victory over the Giants last week. It's also worth noting that Asante Samuel Junior is questionable for tonights contest. And as mentioned earler, Austin Ekeler isn't fully healthy going into this division rival match up.
The good news for the Chargers offensive is that Keenan Allen and fellow wide receiver Mike Williams will be out there to make Justin Herbert that much better. Without Ekeler at 100% and having a limited snap count tonight means his back up Joshua Kelley would have to really step up at tailback. Then again he may have more receiving yards than rushing yards given the way L.A. plays offense.
Nevertheless, who's going to win tonights huge AFC contest? The Chiefs have been on a 6 game winning streak after their mediocre start to the season. In large part due to the re-emergence of this defense anchored by Chris Jones and a craft, creative and very confident Tyrann Mathieu as the leader of the secondary and like Jones he leads by example.
A little more bad news for the Chargers as their all star rookie Left Tackle Rashawn Slater is going to miss this one due to being on the Reserve/COVID 19 list.
So how can the Chergers poke some holes in this suddenly stout Chiefs defense. Well, they do have a heck of a quarterback with great weapons to throw the ball to. And the fact that Kansas City is ranked 26th against the pass would lead me to believe that Justin Herbert may throw the ball 60 times in this battle. So if you're playing fantasy football tonight, you may want to consider putting in a slot or two for Allen and Williams.
The Chargers defense is ranked 4th against the pass, however L.A. Samuel Jr. and Derwin James won't be at their best. On the other hand the Chargers run D isn't too good as they have the second worst rushing yards allowed behind the two win Texans. So we should expect to see a lot of hand-offs to CEH and Darrel Williams right! Remember this is Andy Reid we're talking about here and he's got Patrick Mahomes so you bet tthey're going to pass the ball frequently. Now I expect coach Reid to be smart and use his one-two punch in the backfield and run the ball right down the Chargers collective throats. However he does have a tendency to abandon the run for large portions of the 60 minute game.
Then again, Andy Reid is certainly smart enought to know these statistics and so does Offensive Coordinator and former NFL RB, Eric Bieniemy. So you can imagine what he's thinking about how his rushing attack will look this evening. If I were the Chiefs I would look to run first and use play action to their advantage. If I were the Chargers, I'd use my two main outside weapons in Allen and Williams to consistently beat their man and get open throughout the game.
We must always consider the "X-Factor" in these games like Austin Ekeler if he's healthy enough or perhaps Mecole Hardman will have a big night catching the ball. Will Jared Cook in the red zone? Does Joshua Kelley have himself a day running the ball?
When it comes down to it the questions are who's going to win at the line of scrimmage? Which QB do you trust to make big plays? Which head coach has the potential to make in game adjustents and get a win for his team? We're going to find out tonight but I will tell you that "The Sports Prophet" is always here to make his predictions. I think it will take about a quarter for both teams to figure out what they want to do and when it's all said and done, I have the Chiefs taking a two game lead over the Chargers in the AFC West. Final Score: Chiefs 28 - Chargers 23