Chargers vs Chiefs Preview: Matchups To Watch And Keys To Victory

If the Chargers can pull off a win against the Cheifs their playoff chances take a big leap in the right direction. A look at the keys to making that happen

Nikko Buenavidez
Chargers Wide Receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen Return to Practice Photo Credit: Mike Nowak | Los Angeles Chargers
Chargers Wide Receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen Return to Practice Photo Credit: Mike Nowak | Los Angeles Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers get back-to-back primetime games after being flexed into Sunday Night Football. This new primetime game will come against the division rival Chiefs who are currently atop the AFC. If the Chargers want to make the playoffs in a highly competitive AFC, a win over the Chiefs at home would help those chances. According to FiveThirtyEight, their chances of making the playoffs jump 20 percentage points with a win this weekend.

The first time these two teams met was the first Thursday night game of the year when the Bolts lost 24-27 after a Justin Herbert injury. The offense will look different this time so let’s break down what to watch in this primetime AFC West battle.

Matchups to watch

Chargers Passing Game vs Chiefs Secondary

The Chargers are hoping to either get Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, or maybe even both back on the field this week. This would obviously help the Chargers passing game. It just isn’t the same without them and the Chargers will need all the firepower they can get to keep up with the best offense in the league. Josh Palmer has been decent filling in for the two, but he’s better as a second option. Herbert can’t rely on Austin Ekeler to pick up all the receiving slack so adding either Allen or Williams would be ideal.

The Chiefs Secondary is in the bottom 10 of the league in terms of passing yards allowed so I’d expect there to be lots of airing it out early.

Derwin James vs Travis Kelce

This was the matchup on defense that headlined the last game with Derwin James body-slamming Travis Kelce at the goal line. Derwin is a pretty great matchup for Kelce who’s usually the Chiefs main option on offense. Kelce is the Chiefs’ current leading receiver coming in at 7th in the entire NFL. Shutting down Kelce will be the main focus of the defense as the other receiving options aren’t as threatening.

Kadarius Toney vs Michael Davis/Deane Leonard

Kadarius Toney will likely go against one of those two corners which is a matchup waiting to be exploited. Toney had a great game last week in a limited role with four catches for 57 yards and a score. He’s a threat with the ball in his hands and is able to separate at the line. It’s almost a certainty that with everyone else covered, Mahomes will look to Toney as the main option.

Keys to Win

Make the Chiefs Run the Ball

The Chiefs have been the best passing team in the league this year with 314 passing yards per game. Their running game on the other hand has been pretty subpar with a different leading rusher nearly every game. Mahomes himself has accounted for nearly as many rushing yards as Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Their strength on offense is passing the ball so playing a two-high shell coverage, Staley knows a thing or two about that, forcing them to run it. Then they have to trust their run defense can hold up for all four quarters

Balance the Offense

Justin Herbert is currently on pace to break the single-season passing attempt record by two throws. The Chargers running game hasn’t lived up to expectations with Ekeler being boom or bust when it comes to running the ball. Joshua Kelley, Sony Michel, and Isaiah Spiller haven’t been great running the ball either. The Chargers are averaging the 30th most rushing yards per game only ahead of Tampa Bay and the Rams. A more balanced offense sustains longer drives and thus holds the ball out of Patrick Mahomes‘ hands.

Contain Mahomes

Not only is Mahomes going to be beating you through the air, but he can also use his legs to pick up an easy first down. Both he and Josh Allen are able to scramble for an easy 10 yards and are occasionally the leading rushers on their teams. With the Chargers hopefully playing two high safeties, that means fewer defenders to cover the run. The Chargers’ edge rushers need to be wary of this and not only rush the passer but set the edge and stop Mahomes if he begins to run.

Chargers Wide Receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen Return to Practice Photo Credit: Mike Nowak | Los Angeles Chargers
Chargers Wide Receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen Return to Practice Photo Credit: Mike Nowak | Los Angeles Chargers