Although it wasn’t a Mile High knockout a week ago, the Kansas City Chiefs did their job against the Broncos and won the game, and are now owners of a 16-game win streak against Denver. This week the AFC West leader hopes to knock out the Los Angeles Chargers in a Sunday showdown at Arrowhead.
Looking back to the Kansas City Chiefs most recent victory, the Broncos remain inept, and KC’s defense is getting noticed. The Chiefs defense kept Denver under 200 yards of total offense and 82 net yards passing. Russell Wilson was kept to a pedestrian 95 yards passing, one touchdown, and a 46.6 rating for the game. He was sacked four times and picked off twice.
It’s obvious to all, that the Russell Wilson experiment is about done in the foothills of the front range. The Broncos defense did better last game, though Patrick Mahomes was still able to rip off 309 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception. His passer rating was 94.4, but still nowhere near what we typically accept as a Mahomes stat line.
Regardless, the game resulted in a dub and the Chiefs are getting better on offense. Travis Kelce (with Taylor in the house) put up another 100-yard-plus game (124). Rashee Rice is starting to look like a possible number one. He was targeted only four times but still put 72 yards of offense in the game. I’m starting to get a little concerned with Skyy Moore but the addition of Mecole Hardman, who was traded to the Chiefs on Wednesday, could help push Moore or diminish his playing time.
I can’t wait to see what Matt Nagy will dial up for Hardman and who gets sits Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers.
If the Chiefs are going to turn around their offensive woes at the expense of the Chargers struggling defensive effort this season, the red zone offense must wake up.
Currently, the Chiefs are struggling near the goal line because the offensive line tends to break down with less space to work. Although Mahomes in the red zone has 51.28% passing, which is number three on the list tied with Miami Quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa at number two, and Bills Quarterback, Josh Allen is tops. So, toughening up line play must be an emphasis this week for offensive line coach Andy Heck.
Speaking of the Bolts, they understand the magnitude of this division game. Head Coach Brandon Staley, might be coaching his last game for Los Angeles, should the Chargers get blown out by the Chiefs. Statistically, both teams are in the top five in passing, so the defenses on both sides will be busy. Chiefs are second in passing and the Chargers are number fifth. However, at times both teams have struggled to run the ball consistently. The Chiefs come in at 11th while the Bolts are 18th in rushing yards per game.
Chargers QB Justin Herbert is 13th in passing yards while Mahomes sits as the league’s 6th best. In scoring, Mahomes is sixth and Herbert is eleventh, so it’s a thin line of separation between quarterbacks. However, these stats don’t tell all the story. Herbert can be just as dangerous as Mahomes if the Chiefs let him.
That’s where the Chiefs defense comes into play. Kansas City is 2nd in points allowed while Los Angeles is 23rd. The Chiefs are 6th in total defense and 6th in passing yards allowed while the Chargers are 31st in total defense and dead last in passing yards allowed. The Chiefs are number 12 at rushing yards allowed with an average of 100 yards per game while LA sits at 14th, allowing 102 yards per game.
Unless Patrick Mahomes can uncork his superior passing prowess against a statistically inferior defense, this game will be another low-scoring affair. This game is set up like one that will be settled in the trenches. This is where Andy Heck has to have the offensive line ready for anything.
Brandon Staley and LA offensive coordinator Kellen Moore will have a game plan that will emphasize getting wide receiver Keenan Allen into position to take over the air game. Allen can stretch the field so coverage will have to be tight.
I don’t see Steve Spagnuolo using a ton of zone coverage. More likely we’ll see more man with some zone thrown in based on any trends they see during the progress of the game. The Chargers will try to attack the corners and safeties to establish a rhythm and then feed Running Back, Austin Ekeler to work in the slot and utilize his skills in the screen game.
The middle of the defense will have to be working more up than down and letting the defensive line do its thing. This way, if Herbert tries to get cute, the linebackers may have opportunities to make plays.
Beyond Ekeler, backup Joshua Kelley makes a terrific one-two punch for the Chargers ground attack. They’ll try to lull the Chiefs into defensive lapses. Thus, Chris Jones, George Karlaftis, Mike Danna, Turk Wharton, and finally the debut of Charles Omenihu. He’ll likely be used sparingly as he ramps up to game speed but I can tell you, Steve Spagnuolo is super happy to have him back.
The final word on this game comes down to who wants it more. Again, if Mahomes can dial up his usual high-flying acrobatics and the defense can lock down Staley’s group, we’ll see a potential high-scoring affair from the Chiefs offense. If not, it’ll be a slugfest of the smashmouth variety.
Chiefs 25 – Chargers 17
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