The Los Angeles Chargers have their last game of the season coming up on Sunday and wow, it certainly has been an interesting year. Below we’ll look at the matchups they’ll face this week in Chargers vs Chiefs:
3 Matchups to Watch in Chargers vs Chiefs
1. Easton Stick vs Blaine Gabbert
On Monday, it was reported that quarterback Blaine Gabbert will start Week 18. The Chiefs already won the division, clinching their spot in the playoffs, so it doesn’t make sense to play Patrick Mahomes, and most likely the majority of their starters will not be playing either. So it will be a battle of the backup quarterbacks, Chargers starters, and Chiefs backups. Gabbert is in his 13th season, and though he’s only played a handful of games, due to his experience, he may give the Chargers defense a decent fight.
Easton Stick wasn’t as accurate against the Broncos as he was against the Bills. He looked good when he could use his legs and utilized wide receiver Alex Erickson and tight end Gerald Everett with some success, but it wasn’t his best performance. So even if the Chiefs use their B squad, it doesn’t guarantee that he’ll play well.
2. Chargers Pass Rush vs Expectations
Edge rusher Khalil Mack seems to be holding up this Chargers pass rush. He’s always recording sacks and multiple pressures, and even when it’s not his best game, it’s still a good performance. To top his season off, he recorded his 100th career sack against the Broncos on Sunday and was just selected for the Pro Bowl.
This offseason there was so much hype around Chargers fans finally being able to enjoy the one-two punch of Joey Bosa and Mack. And then when rookie Tuli Tuipulotu came in, he added so much to the fearsome unit.
But then Bosa went down with an injury, and Tuipulotu has been good, but he’s still developing. And in this last game, there was definitely not as much pressure on Jarrett Stidham as there could’ve been, considering according to Pro Football Focus, the Chargers had their lowest pass-rushing grade of the season (49.7). Stidham managed 224 passing yards, a few more than Stick, and had a passing touchdown while Stick had none.
Mack has been amazing but there needs to be more from this group next year so that everything doesn’t have to land on Mack’s shoulders.
3. Chargers Running Backs vs The Chiefs Defense
The Chargers run game is still pretty nonexistent. Despite the four first downs, Austin Ekeler had another fumble during the fourth quarter and had only 48 rushing yards. The other running backs didn’t even play enough snaps to make an impact. I don’t expect the run game to improve, even against backups.
One player in particular that the Chargers will most likely face is their former teammate, linebacker Drue Tranquill. He hasn’t played as much this year but still has five sacks, tying his career-high from 2022, and concerning the run game, he has an improved run defense grade of 54.4 from 49.2 last year.
And if any semblance of the starting defense plays, forget about it. Linebacker Leo Chenal has played more snaps this year than last, including more run defense ones, and has a career-high 26 STOPs along with the highest run defense grade of the team (80.1). The Chargers run blocking has been about as bad as it was last year and to make matters worse, there don’t seem to be any running backs making an impact. So it doesn’t matter the opponent, this unit just doesn’t have it together.