The Los Angeles Chargers are doing anything and everything they can to dethrone the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West.
For the last several years, the AFC West has been largely dominated by the Kansas City Chiefs and in some cases, it has not even been particularly close.
This season features a new twist, however, as the three ugly stepsisters of the AFC West have made additions and subtractions in hopes of competing with the Chiefs and knocking them off their high throne for the first time in six seasons.
The Denver Broncos went and traded the farm to Seattle for what they hope will be their new franchise quarterback in Russell Wilson. The Las Vegas Raiders have made additions as well, must notably acquiring wide receiver Davante Adams from the Green Bay Packers, giving the team their best wideout since Amari Cooper.
Since the drafting of Justin Herbert, the Chargers have been steadily improving, and Herbert’s skills, combined with a bevy of deep threats, have had the Chiefs’ defense on their heels more than once.
Much like the Chiefs themselves with Mahomes, the Chargers offense has taken a rather pass-happy turn with Herbert at the helm and wideouts such as Keenan Allen and Mike Williams as downfield threats. However, their running attack should not be overlooked with Austin Ekeler around and they just made another solid addition to their backfield.
Earlier this week, running back Sony Michel was cut by the Dolphins and scooped up by the Chargers almost immediately. Make no mistake in thinking that Ekeler will be battling for his starting job, for this is most certainly not the case. Ekeler’s role is cemented in stone, and he will continue to be the Chargers’ featured back, but the Chiefs defense (and fans alike) should not sleep on the late acquisition of Michel.
We have heard stories throughout training camp and the pre-season of a very much improved Chiefs defense, but until this is proven against NFL starting offenses, all we have to go on is how the Chiefs defense was much maligned against the run in the preseason—something that has been true for years now.
Ekeler has been a problem for Chiefs defenses in the past, and he is now joined in the backfield by Michel. Michel has had three games against the Chiefs, all of which occurred while he was with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. During two of these games, which took place during his rookie year of 2018, Michel had big nights against the Chiefs in both games.
The first game took place on Sunday Night Football in 2018, when the Patriots bearly beat the Chiefs in Foxborough with a final score of 43-40. During that game, Michel wracked up 106 yards on 24 carries and 2 rushing touchdowns. The next time Michel would face the Chiefs, it would be in Arrowhead, during that fateful AFC championship game that most Chiefs fans would wish to forget. During that game, Michel had 29 carries for 113 yards and 2 more rushing scores.
Despite the success, Michel has had against the Chiefs’ defense, it certainly needs to be taken into account that this was four years ago. The Chiefs have since changed defensive coordinators, many players have come and gone, and their entire scheme has been altered.
Certainly, past success does not guarantee future success, but it is important to stand and take note of the Chargers, who are making moves to constantly improve, and who do not seem satisfied to sit idle and watch the Chiefs win the AFC West for a seventh consecutive season. Herbert and his receivers have been and will continue to be a force to be reckoned with, for no longer do the Chargers have Philip Rivers taking the snaps, throwing multiple picks a game, and then throwing a tantrum when he does it.
Not only do the Chargers possess an above-average passing game, but with the addition of Michel (assuming he stays healthy), the Chargers might have a two-headed monster for a running attack, against a Chiefs defense that has looked bad against the run. However, just as past success does not guarantee future success, past failure does not guarantee future failure, and the Chiefs’ defense could very well surprise us all.
We will find out for sure during Week 2, when the Chargers come a-knocking at Arrowhead on September 15 in primetime.