It’s Week Two and the Chargers have a heated matchup against the Chiefs on Thursday Night. Let’s look at the x-factors the Chargers will need in order to combat this great team:
It’s Time for the Interior Defensive Line to Shine
The Chargers struggled against the Chiefs’ running game in Week 3 of the 2021 season. During that game, the Chiefs had a team total of 186 rushing yards and Clyde Edwards-Helaire produced 100 of those yards. The Chargers improved during their second game against the Chiefs in Week 15, holding them to a team total of 86 rushing yards.
Stopping the run is going to continue to be a point of contention, considering the Chiefs have such a mobile quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, and heck, their whole team is pretty mobile. This is the time when the Chargers will really have to rely on those key interior defensive line players of Austin Johnson, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Morgan Fox, and Jerry Tillery.
Johnson had at least one tackle on Sunday and a “stop” which PFF defines as “a play where a defender makes a tackle, and the location of the tackle means the play is a successful one for the defense.” Though Joseph-Day had a quieter game with no recorded tackles, there’s no need to worry about him. He had a total of 22 “stops” last year for the Rams despite only playing in eight games, and I only expect that number to increase with better health and more help on the edge. With these guys bookended by the powerful Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, the Chiefs should have trouble getting through, even if there’s a last-minute surprise Mahomes scramble.
Louder for The Guys in the Back (The Cornerbacks)
Despite missing Tyreek Hill, if Sunday’s game against the Cardinals is any indication, the Chiefs don’t seem to be slowing down, as they are now relying on new targets like Skyy Moore, Jody Fortson, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, along with some old favorites like Travis Kelce. The secondary will be the crucial key in stopping these runaway receivers.
Kelce had the highest number of receptions of his 2021 season during the Week 15 game against the Chargers at 10, along with his highest number of receiving yards at 191. Brandon Staley said during his press conference on Monday that you can’t let Mahomes or Kelce get so comfortable that they can predict your scheme. So Kelce is definitely going to need to be carefully covered by an array of players like the Chargers did this past week for Davante Adams and Darren Waller.
Adams still had a productive game on Sunday but Asante Samuel and Bryce Callahan certainly made it more difficult for him. Callahan was also matched up with Hunter Renfrow, and Renfrow ultimately only had 3 receptions. During his press conference on Monday, Renaldo Hill mentioned what a good player Callahan is and that it was an advantage that he already knows some of these matchups in the AFC West. Callahan will be critical in covering some of those deep passes that Mahomes likes to throw to his receivers, especially Kelce. Michael Davis will also be an asset as he has the size and coverage skills to be able to match up with the star tight end from time to time. Derwin James will obviously be a factor there as well.
The Chargers Have Their Tight End (Finally!)
Gerald Everett really showed up and showed out during Sunday’s game and had the third highest receiving yards of the team at 54, with three receptions, and one touchdown. It seems like he’s always been a part of this offense, and with that kind of performance, he’s on his way to being a regular target of Herbert’s. Jared Cook had some of his lower reception numbers during the Chiefs games last season, but that doesn’t seem like it will be the case for Everett, as the Chargers need a physical, fast presence to get away from the likes of Juan Thornhill. With Keenan Allen possibly out on Thursday due to a hamstring injury, Everett will be a great target option.
Make Way for the King, Justin Herbert
Yes, Mahomes is a great quarterback, but do you know who else is a good quarterback? Justin Herbert. I could write several articles about how amazing Herbert is, but if you saw Sunday’s game, you know that he’s still got it. He had three passing touchdowns against the Raiders on Sunday and two BTT, which PFF calls “Big Time Throws – a pass with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window.” From the dart to Allen, to the throw where he was basically doing the splits while still perfectly targeting Everett, he was in fine form on Sunday.
Though Chris Jones and furious George Karlaftis will certainly be factors on Thursday, and though Herbert’s completion percentage has fluctuated occasionally to the lower side against the Chiefs—in 2021 when blitzed in Week 15 it was at 50% and when under pressure in Week 3 it was at 25%— I’m not too worried, especially considering this new offensive line for the Chargers held well on Sunday, only allowing for 8 quarterback pressures. I have all the confidence that Thursday’s game will be a fight to the finish but in particular, it’s going to be a quarterback battle between two magical, freakishly talented individuals. I’m crossing my fingers that Herbert comes out on top.
Chargers X-Factors For Week Two Matchup In Kansas City. Photo Via Mike Nowak