The Kansas City Chiefs will try to win their seventh straight game this Sunday when they face the San Diego Chargers at 12:05 p.m. CST in the friendly confines of Arrowhead Stadium. KC is a big favorite with the Vegas oddsmakers to not only win the game, but to win by a wide margin.
Under normal circumstances, this would be a very scary game for KC because it is a division foe quarterbacked by a relatively hot player that has owned the Chiefs in the past. However, these are far from normal times in sunny San Diego. They are rapidly disintegrating on the injury front … their record is plummeting to #1 overall draft pick range … and they may be facing both a relocation of the franchise and a reorganization of the front office and/or coaching staff when this season ends. Not exactly the kind of karma a team wants to take on the road to face a hot division rival.
With the Chiefs involved in a dogfight in the crowded AFC wild card playoff race, I don’t believe there is a chance of a let down on the Chiefs end. However, that doesn’t mean San Diego can’t come into Arrowhead with their “A” game and pull off an upset. Here are five keys to the game that will give the Chiefs their eighth win of the year and keep them in control of their playoff destiny:
1. For Kansas City … just show up. I don’t mean this in a “just throw your helmet on the field and the Chargers will fold” kind of way, so don’t start throwing rocks, San Diego fans. However, the Chiefs are a much better team that is far healthier than the Chargers are, and Kansas City is at home. The Chiefs main job Sunday is to come to the game focused and prepared like it will be a back-and-forth 3-point game at the end of the fourth quarter and KC will have overcome its biggest hurdle – an inexplicable let-down.
2. Attack, attack, attack on offense. The Chargers are a wreck defensively and they will be missing two of their best defenders in lineman Corey Liuget and cornerback Brandon Flowers, who were declared out on Friday. The Chiefs proved they could run on the Chargers three weeks ago when Spencer Ware gained 96 yards and two touchdowns on only 11 rushes, so look for the Chiefs to establish the run early. If they can, that will open up the play-action passing game downfield to Jeremy Maclin. And, if the weather forecast is to be believed, the game might be played in a thunderstorm, so running the ball will be an even bigger key.
3. Beat Philip Rivers like a drum. The Chiefs defense held Rivers to his worst game of the season three weeks ago in San Diego, only allowing him to throw for 178 yards passing with no touchdowns. Justin Houston made the play of the game in the third quarter when he intercepted Rivers on a screen pass and returned it for a 17-yard touchdown that put the Chiefs up 19-3 and the rout was officially on. The Chiefs sacked Rivers three times that day, hit him five more times, and pressured him practically from the opening kickoff to the end of the game. It eventually took its toll on Rivers who missed several receivers badly even when he did have time to throw. Houston will be missing his second straight game on Sunday due to the knee injury he suffered against Buffalo, but the team will get Allen Bailey back for the first time in weeks and he should be able to put pressure on Rivers up the middle. If the Chiefs can get four sacks on Rivers, it might be another rout.
4. Keep the turnover machine running on defense. It’s insane to think that the Chiefs can keep creating turnovers like they have been doing during this winning streak, but as long as they stay on the plus side of the ledger, their odds of winning improve dramatically. If KC can be +2 for the game, they will win.
5. Need a rebound game from Dustin Colquitt and Cairo Santos. Colquitt has been an all-world punter this year, but he has slumped a bit in the last two games. Well, slumped relative for him, at least. The last time these two teams played, Colquitt was so good he was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the first time in his career. He and Santos missed a couple of extra points last week in Oakland – one on a bad hold and the other on a worse kick, so they need to improve on that immediately. Santos will have to be careful kicking on a wet field and he needs to keep putting his kickoffs out for touchbacks to force Rivers to go 80 yards on every drive. Colquitt needs to get back to burying his punts deep in San Diego territory inside the 15-yard line. In addition, if it is raining, Colquitt’s unique spin on his punts could lead to a turnover, which is never a bad thing.
Bottom Line: Because these two teams are on reverse trajectories for the season and the Chiefs walloped the Chargers 33-3 when they played three weeks ago, the temptation is to think the Chiefs will repeat that performance. Much like a Winstead’s double cheese with onion rings, your Chiefs Examiner never met temptation he could say no to, so …
Chiefs – 27, Chargers – 6