Key Matchups For Thursday Night Football: Chargers And Chiefs
Thanks to a dominant game in his debut from Khalil Mack, the Chargers sit at 1-0 going into as big of a week two game there can be in the NFL. The Chargers are traveling into Kansas City to take on division rival Chiefs. Arrowhead stadium is notoriously known as one of the loudest and most difficult places to play in the NFL. Justin Herbert is 2-0 in his career playing in Kansas City, but it’s safe to say this is the most important game he’s played there due to the expectations of this team this season. As I did last week, I will get into my key matchups for this game that I believe will ultimately determine the outcome of this game.
Joey Bosa And Khalil Mack Vs. Patrick Mahomes
Nearly every coach in the NFL is going to say the same thing about how to stop an elite quarterback, but especially Patrick Mahomes. They will say the key to success is getting pressure only bringing four players and keeping Mahomes in the pocket. I can’t stress enough how good Mahomes is once he escapes the pocket. He is the best quarterback in the NFL at improvising and making plays downfield outside of the pocket.
It is obviously important for the interior guys to get a push to make Mahomes uncomfortable. I am not getting much into that because the Chiefs have the best interior line in the NFL and I’m not super confident in their ability to pass rush from the interior against them. It is therefore crucial for Mack and Joey Bosa to be exceptionally smart in this game and to not get greedy. Mahomes is strong and difficult to bring down. If Mack and Bosa can keep their containment and quickly make the pocket collapse, they will have their chances to bring him down. Last week I predicted two sacks for Mack and one for Bosa, which was generous of me since they both had more than what I had projected. I would consider this week a success if they can limit Mahomes in the run game and get one sack each.
Chargers Receivers Vs. Chiefs Secondary
Usually, I wouldn’t say this is one to worry about or put a lot of focus on, but I wanted to touch on it since both teams are dealing with injuries. The Chargers are going to be without Keenan Allen and the Chiefs will be without Trent McDuffie. While losing a top corner is generally more difficult to replace, losing Allen is a huge blow to the Chargers. The Chiefs’ secondary is not very great, especially now with this injury, but with the Chargers losing their most important offensive weapon, it’s crucial for others to step up.
The Chargers’ next two receivers up would be Mike Williams and Josh Palmer. I have been very high on Palmer since last season, and Williams is coming off a breakout season. However, despite this, they combined for a mere five receptions for 15 yards last game. It was great to see other players step up, but if the Chargers want to beat the Chiefs, they are going to need these two players to step up in a big way. Thankfully, Williams has had some of the best games of his career against the Chiefs, I expect him to show up this week in a big way. I also expect Palmer to come in around 70 yards and score a touchdown on Thursday.
Derwin James Vs. Travis Kelce
This will be the second week in a row that the Chargers are facing an elite tight end. The difference this week is they will be going against the best tight end in the entire league, and an offense that features him more than anyone else on the team. Last week, Travis Kelce pulled in eight receptions for 121 yards and scored a touchdown. I’m fine with other players on the Chiefs beating the Chargers, but they need to focus on Kelce and slow him down if they want to win this game.
Last season when the Chargers lost to the Chiefs in overtime, Kelce was slowed down and hardly had any impact in the first half. Derwin James was injured going into the game and almost didn’t play, he toughed it out the first half and did an excellent job of Kelce. James was unable to go in the second half and Kelce dominated the rest of the game, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime. James is one of the most talented players in the NFL and probably one of the three most important players on the Chargers. They will need him at his best this game to slow down Kelce. Anything under 50-60 yards would be a huge win for the Chargers.
I am ecstatic for this game, it is a huge opportunity for the Chargers to start the season by winning their first two games. Even more important, is that they can start with wins against teams in their division, this would give them a huge advantage early on in the race to win the AFC West. This game will be much closer throughout the game than last week. Ultimately, I expect Herbert to stay undefeated at Arrowhead with the Chargers winning a thriller 31-27 on a game-winning touchdown with less than a minute left.
Key Matchups For Thursday Night Football: Chargers And Chiefs. Photo Credit – Mike Nowak