For the first time all season, the Kansas City Chiefs are trying to bounce back after suffering their first loss. Kansas City (9-1) returns home this week to take on their AFC West rival, the San Diego Chargers. Both teams are coming off losing efforts last week and both teams understand whats at stake in this match-up.
The Chiefs are playing their second division game in a row and need this win in order to keep pace for first place in the west with the Denver Broncos. The Chargers (4-6) are still alive in the race for the sixth seed in the AFC playoff bracket so they need this win if they want to keep their hopes alive.
For Kansas City, this game cannot be overlooked because of their rematch with the Broncos the following week. The Chiefs have done a great job all season of focusing on the task at hand, but they haven’t had to maintain that focus after a loss. Kansas City needs to come out firing on all cylinders and get back to playing good fundamental football.
The Broncos game has been broken down from every angle by this point, so there is no reason for me to go into great depth about it. The main things I took away from it are this; The Chiefs did not play their best game, but still had tremendous opportunities to win. The Chiefs pass rush has been missing since they had a 5 sack effort in the second half against the Houston Texans, what happened? And lastly, the Chiefs offense seriously lacks explosive players aside from Jamaal Charles, but we already knew that.
Kansas City can hang with the “Elite” teams of the NFL as they proved last Sunday night, but none of it will matter if they cough up a loss at home to the Chargers. San Diego, Philip Rivers in particular, has struggled the past few seasons when he’s traveled to Arrowhead stadium and the Chiefs need to make sure that trend continues this Sunday. Lets take a look at the numbers.
A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS:
When the Chargers decided to hire former Broncos offensive coordinator, Mike McCoy, to take their head coaching job, they clearly had their quarter back in mind. The first thing McCoy wanted to do when he got to San Diego was evaluate why Philip Rivers had been struggling so much the past few years. Over the last four seasons, Rivers has thrown 86 interceptions and fumbled away 16 footballs for a grand total of 99 turnovers. That’s just bad.
What Mike McCoy has done, along with offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, is make the offense a little more simple for Rivers. They take great value in high percentage throws and are using the running game to set up their throws down the field. Former head coach and play caller, Norv Turner, had Rivers in more of a vertical offense which seemed to be part of the reason he was forcing a lot of throws that were resulting in turnovers.
There is no question that Rivers is playing a lot better this season because of the changes that McCoy has instilled. Rivers leads the NFL in completion percentage at 71% and his turnover issues are seeming to be a thing of the past. Rather than Rivers giving the football away, teams are having to force him into those crucial mistakes. So far this season, Rivers has thrown 19 TD’s to just 8 interceptions and only has one fumble lost.
Though Rivers is playing smarter football, it’s not turning into wins for them this season. After an upbeat start that included a win against the Indianapolis Colts at home, the Chargers find themselves at 4-6 with a three game losing streak.
The Chargers rank 7th in total yards (399.4) fourth in passing yards (287.9) and are 16th in rushing yards with an average of 111.5. Their defense has been the issue for them all season. They’re 16th against the rush (113.5 per game) but are currently 28th against the pass. They’re -6 in turnover to takeaway ratio and you can see why they have lost 6 games this season.
MATCH-UPS TO WATCH:
When San Diego selected wide receiver, Keenan Allen, in the third round I knew that they had one of the best steals of the draft. Allen is extremely talented with his crisp route running and ability to adjust for balls in the air. Allen is quickly becoming Rivers favorite target as he’s second on the team in receptions with 41 for 613 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Marcus Cooper is coming off his worst game as a pro and he will likely have to face Keenan Allen at several different times during the game. Now let me make myself clear here, I’m not as down on Cooper as some of the Chiefs Kingdom has been this week. Yes, Cooper had a rough day at the office but it was at the hands of the best quarterback in the league right now. Cooper is a tough kid and he will need to put last week behind him and play well this Sunday.
Antonio Gates has abused Chiefs safety Eric Berry the last few seasons and you know Rivers is going to target him. Gates leads the team in receptions and yards with 56 for 664 yards and 3 touchdowns. Eric Berry surrendered his first touchdown of the season to a tight end last week against the Broncos. If the Chargers get into the redzone, Berry needs to make sure he eliminates Gates as an option for Rivers.
Dwayne Bowe has been targeted 29 times in the last two games for the Chiefs. He will be matched up against corner back, Derek Cox, who has really struggled so far this season. Cox was one of the Chargers big free agent signings this off season and he’s been rather disappointing in the eyes of the Chargers. He was benched after the third play of their game against the Broncos when he gave up a 74 yard touchdown to Julius Thomas. Bowe needs to get going for the Chiefs this week and Alex Smith should be looking to take advantage of that match-up.
The Chiefs haven’t been favored to beat the Chargers in 14 straight games until now. In other words, it’s been 8 years since the Chiefs were the ones who were supposed to win this game. Kansas City is a five point favorite in Arrowhead and they certainly need this win more than the Chargers do. As I mentioned before, the Chiefs cannot overlook this Charger team at home and need to get after them early. With Denver on the road against the New England Patriots, Kansas City can set themselves up to take back first place in the west and make their re-match with the Broncos even bigger than the first.
The game starts at 12 PM CDT on CBS.