The general consensus around NFL circles last season was that those “spunky upstart” Kansas City Chiefs stole the AFC West from the much more talented San Diego Chargers, thanks to KC’s easy schedule and a few games that SD gave away on special teams. The Chargers backed up that opinion in SD last season when they completely obliterated the Cassel-less Chiefs. Even during last season’s Monday Night Football win, the Chargers defense held the Chiefs offense in check for much of the game. The Chargers ended the season ranked #1 in the NFL in both total offense and total defense. So it was no surprise when most NFL experts picked the Chargers to regain their “rightful” place at the top of the AFC West this season.
Despite KC’s recent resurgence, most NFL experts and fans still feel the same way about both teams. The Chargers are still the sometimes under-performing juggernaut and the Chiefs are still the team that everyone is waiting to lose so they can say “See? I told you they weren’t for real.”
So the only way for KC to win this game is by luck or if the Chargers give it away, right? I mean there is no way that the Chiefs could actually go head-to-head with the much more talented Chargers and come out on top if the Chargers bring their “A game,” could they?
I’m here to tell you that that’s exactly what KC can do tonight. Especially when KC has the ball. I’ll explain after the jump.
The Chargers and the Chiefs can both be confusing teams. Last season KC had this fantastic turnaround but flopped down the stretch, due in large part to the inability of their offense to make plays against strong defenses. The Chargers on the other hand were a more talented team that just beat itself.
Here’s the thing though, even though the Chargers still have elite talent on the offensive side of the ball (i.e. Rivers, Jackson, etc.), their defense isn’t what it used to be. Injuries have massively depleted their defense. Bob Sanders, Stephen Cooper and Larry English are all on IR, and Shaun Phillips and Luis Castillo have already been ruled out of tonight’s game. Since the fall of Shawn Merriman, the Chargers defense has really been one that excelled because of the fact that they had good solid players at each position as opposed to some teams that are led by a few defensive superstars. However, the injuries mentioned above are now starting to show some cracks in the SD armor. These injured players are being replaced by players likes Vaughn Martin, Darryl Gamble, Travis LaBoy and Steve Gregory. The team defense approach is a lot harder to pull off with those players on the field. That’s nothing against guys like Garay, Spikes, Weddle, and Jammer, who are all good players. They may still be doing their jobs, but the question is are the guys lining up next to them as good as they were last season?
If one were simply to look at where the Chargers stand in yards allowed (still fifth in the NFL with 297.3 yards/game) you might think that the impact of these losses hasn’t been felt much so far. However, if you look a little deeper, you’ll see the cracks that I mentioned. Last season the Chargers were 10th in the NFL in points allowed. This year they are down to 18th. Last year they were fourth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed with 93.8. This year they are down to 21st with 121.7.
Is this because they’ve faced such good offenses so far this season? In a word, no. True, they have faced the Patriots and their high-powered offense, but the second best team they’ve faced in terms of offensive yards per game is actually the Miami Dolphins. Other struggling offenses that the Bolts have faced include the Jets, Vikings, and Broncos. The Chiefs are obviously on that list too, but anyone who watched that game knows that once the Chiefs “flicked the switch” at half time of that game they have been moving the ball much better. Also, Jackie Battle wasn’t a regular player yet in that game.
So to summarize, this defense is struggling to stop the run, lost arguably its best three pass rushers to injury, and now has benched one of its starting CBs (Antoine Cason) due to poor play and will start a rookie (Marcus Gilchrist) in his place.
The Chiefs offense should be licking its chops. Playing on Monday Night Football in front of an insane home crowd, this offense needs to put the pressure on this wounded defense. If rookies like Gilchrist and Gamble are going to make their first NFL starts in that kind of environment, then the Chiefs must exploit them. Make guys like Gilchrist and Gregory prove they can cover the likes of Breaston, Baldwin and McCluster. Slam Jackie Battle up the gut and see if their 21st rated run defense can stop the Chiefs’ seventh-rated running attack.
It’s time to discredit this idea that the Chargers are clearly a better team. The Chiefs don’t need a fluke or luck to win this game. They just need to follow the advice that people have been giving San Diego for the last couple seasons and use the play makers that they have and not beat themselves. I 100% believe that they can and I’ll be screaming like crazy at my TV tonight and hoping that they do.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get my kids out trick-or-treating a little early so I don’t miss kickoff.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!