December 15, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid (right) high-fives players during the third quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Beat The San Diego Chargers, With Your Starters

AA - Crowd Noise final

I hope all of you Addicts are having a wonderful holiday week!

This Sunday, the Chiefs play in the late afternoon game against the San Diego Chargers. The timing of the game is important – by kick-off, the Chargers will know if they have a chance to make it into the playoffs as the #6 seed, or if their 2013 season is done. For the Chargers to have a chance, they need the following to occur:

  • The Cincinnati Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens (at Cincinnati)

  • The New York Jets beat the Miami Dolphins (at Miami)

And then of course, they have to beat the Chiefs.

There’s a good chance that both the Ravens and Dolphins will lose, setting the stage for an inspired game by Philip Rivers and the Chargers. After a miserable start to their season, San Diego will play like a team possessed against their hated divisional rival – us.

I think most Addicts and certainly most NFL talking heads feel strongly that head coach Andy Reid should rest all of the starters. After all, this game means absolutely nothing for the Chiefs’ playoff seeding. Win or lose, Kansas City will likely travel back to Indianapolis to face the Colts (there’s a smaller chance KC will head to Cincinnati). But if you want the definitive word on why the starters should play, go no further than Reach’s post, here.

I’ll add to his argument. Let’s say Reid rests the starters. Here’s who will be in the starting lineup for the Chiefs on Sunday:

  • Rishaw Johnson and Rokevious Watkins at guard

  • Eric Kush and center

  • A.J. Jenkins at wide receiver

  • Chase Daniel at quarterback

  • Jaye Howard at nose tackle

  • Dunta Robinson at cornerback

The Chargers’ defense, led by Donald Butler and Manti Te’o at inside linebackers; Melvin Ingram at outside linebacker; Corey Liuget at defensive end; and the Chargers’ best defensive player, Eric Weddle at free safety, will eat this group for brunch. On offense, Philip Rivers, running back Ryan Matthews, star rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen and tight end Antonio Gates will be off to the races.

There’s a good chance the Chargers will win by a lot. Like 42-7 or 49-0. Intellectually, the Chiefs and and all of us Addicts will know that “the game didn’t matter” and “we rested all of our starters.” But having two blow-out losses in a row heading into the playoffs is not exactly my idea of positive momentum. And I think it’s much easier said than done to flip a switch and turn back on your A game at any point, much less after two confidence-stomping losses.

With Justin Houston back in action this week, the Chiefs have a great chance at not only beating the Chargers, but personally ending their playoff hopes, which is particularly satisfying when playing a division rival. Why not go into this game with that mindset?

Nov 24, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) is sacked by Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston (50) in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t buy the “injury” rationale for resting starters either. Players get injured at random times. And when they do, backups step in. How does it help the confidence of a backup player when you have been burned over and over again and your entire team just got thrashed?

I also don’t buy the “hide the playbook” rationale for taking this week off. As we’ve discussed before, creating confusion is a key element to gaining the advantage. It’s harder on a defensive player if he knows that the Chiefs can run five plays out of Formation A versus knowing just two plays out of Formation A but seeing a new wrinkle. In the first scenario, the defensive player must think about all five options, which slows him down. If a defensive player experiences something new, they immediately go into reaction mode, which creates more fluid and intuitive action.

There are very few good things about a loss, and hardly anything good at all about a blowout, especially the week prior to your first playoff game in years. Addicts, I say play the starters and play to win. Then the Chiefs can go to Indianapolis with confidence and the mindset that they will beat anyone who steps up to them.

Enjoy the holiday week, Addicts! And when you get a break from eating, tell me your thoughts on whether Reid should rest the starters or play them!

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