Chargers (1-0) AT Chiefs (1-0)
When: Thursday, 5:15 p.m.
Where: GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium
TV/Radio: Amazon Prime; 98.7 FM; 105.5 FM/94.3 FM (Spanish)
Line: Chiefs by 4.5 points
Notable injury designations: Chargers: WR Keenan Allen (hamstring) and TE Donald Parham (hamstring) are out. CB J.C. Jackson (ankle) is questionable.
Chiefs: K Harrison Butker (left ankle) out. G Trey Smith (ankle) is questionable.
What’s at stake? A chance to start 2-0 in the daunting AFC West. If the Chiefs win, it is a statement saying, “Yes, the division is loaded with talent, but we are still the team to beat.” While for the Chargers, a victory could mean not only starting 2-0 but 2-0 in the division as well. They could point to the rest of the AFC West and say, “this is our division now.”
Who’s better? Until proven otherwise, the Chiefs get the slight edge because they lit up Arizona for 44 points and seem to be on a mission. Some have written them off, and they are out to prove that they are still the big dog in not only the AFC West but the AFC as a whole. Kansas City has one of, if not the best offensive line in football and still have an offense that is firing at all cylinders even without Tyreek Hill. It will be interesting to see if their defense has improved.
The Chargers are still growing. Last week’s victory over the Raiders was impressive because of the way they did it, which was with a tough defense. They sacked Derek Carr six times and picked him off three times. Last season, the Chargers defense would have dropped those picks and not had that many sacks this team has improved. How much? Thursday should be a good measuring stick for the defense to see where they are at against still one of the best teams in football.
Matchup to watch: Chargers edge rusher Khalil Mack vs. Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown. Mack is a new member of the Chargers, and he showed out on Sunday against the Raiders sacking Carr three times. The defense will need Mack to have a disruptive performance yet again. He doesn’t need to get three sacks, even though it would help, but he needs to make Mahomes uncomfortable all game long. If Mack consistently pressures Mahomes, he might commit a couple of mistakes like Carr did. Brown is one of the best left tackles in the game and will try to slow down Mack on Thursday.
Chargers win if: Derwin James can slow down Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. James is the best safety in football. His unique size, strength, and speed give him the chance to be able to cover tight ends and receivers. Well, here comes one of the best tight ends in the NFL on Thursday night football. He is coming off an eight catch, 121 yards, and one touchdown performance, so he is coming in hot. Expect James to shadow him on Thursday and try to take him out of the game. The Chargers plan could easily be to let everyone else expect Kelce beat you.
Fantasy sleeper: Chargers tight end Gerald Everett made some nice catches on Sunday against the Raiders. The Chiefs defense may be distracted by the other offensive weapons the Chargers have that Everett could be in store for a big game. He is coming off a 54 yards and one touchdown performance. He and Herbert will continue to get more comfortable, and as they do, those numbers could see an increase.
Prediction: Most Chargers-Chiefs games come down to a one-score game, and this game won’t be any different. If Keenan Allen was healthy, this might be different, but KC will win the game 24-20. It will be a tough defensive matchup, but the Chargers won’t have enough firepower to compete if Allen doesn’t play.