The Chiefs travel to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers in a game that will likely decide the 2021 AFC West champion and will go a long way in dictating playoff seeding.
Chiefs Focus @ChiefsFocus Charles Robinson @CRob5769
Date: Thursday, December 16 | Time: 7:20 PM CST
Location: SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, CA)
TV: FOX, NFL Network, Amazon | Radio : 106.5 The Wolf
Odds: Chiefs -3, O/U 52
In the regular season, they don’t get much bigger than this. The Chiefs and Chargers will kickoff tonight in what is undoubtedly the biggest game of the season for either team. Kansas City travels to Los Angeles sporting a 9-4 record on the season, currently good for the 3 seed in the AFC and tied with the Patriots and Titans for the best record in the conference. The Chargers are right behind them sitting at 8-5 on the year coming off of back to back wins after falling to 6-5 following 4-1 start. The Chiefs, of course, ride a 6 game winning streak into the game, but will be without linebacker Willie Gay, Jr, cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, and wide receiver Josh Gordon. There is no confirmed status on defensive star Chris Jones, but indications from afternoon and this morning would lead me to believe we likely won’t see him tonight. If we do, I will be shocked in a very good way.
His daily “Thank you god!” tweet this morning has the Kingdom collectively holding their breath that today’s might mean something more.
Let’s take a look at the injury report (updated as of last night) for both teams. Please note this is from ESPN.com, and they have Chris Jones listed as “out”. This has not been confirmed as of yet, to our knowledge.
Obviously some big names on both sides. The Chargers pass defense could be hobbled immensely by the absence of Derwin James and Asante Samuel Jr if they cannot go, which would not bode well with their run defense being as bad as it is. We all know the story with the Chiefs inactives – the team will miss them certainly, but it isn’t necessarily a death nail.
We don’t need to revisit the past too much when it comes to this game. Much of what ailed the Chiefs in week 3 is a thing of the past, from defensive schematics and personnel decisions to an addiction to turnovers on offense. The defense has found it’s groove as one of the most dynamic in the league, and the offense has been soul searching but still efficient, effective, and for the most part turnover free. Here’s what needs to happen in order for the Chiefs to secure a victory in Los Angeles tonight.
If you’ve watched any coverage of these teams or read anything online, you know that the Chargers defense is not the best in the league by any stretch of the imagination, particularly against the run. They rank 31st in the league in that department, and it just so happens there are only 32 teams participating in NFL football. Needless to say, the Chiefs need to ride the wave of momentum that their bruising offensive line has created over the back half of the season and establish the run early and often on the Chargers. The first time these two teams met the Chiefs racked up 186 yards on 30 carries, much of the same is in order tonight. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrell Williams, and quite possibly Derrick Gore should see some good run in this game, but carrying the ball and catching it out of the backfield. With establishing the run, the Chiefs are likely to open up some options in the passing game as well in play action, as well as with the ability to stay bunched formation wise and confuse the Chargers with different pre-snap motion. The goal here should not be to take the team deep right off the bat, but the Chiefs might have the ability to do that late if they can draw the Chargers up in the box, specifically Derwin James (if he plays) to help with the run. Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman could potentially take the top off of a suspect Chargers defense if the playcalling sets this up properly. Bottom line, if the offense is physical, efficient, and does not turn the ball over, this game should belong to Kansas City.
The Chiefs defense will need to adopt the “next man up” mentality and live by it tonight. Anthony Hitchens and Ben Niemann will see a healthy amount of snaps with Willie Gay out, and Mike Hughes will be called upon to step up again in a big way with L’Jarius Sneed missing his second consecutive game following the murder of his brother. Hughes was magnificent last week against the Raiders, bringing home AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors – more of that type of performance, and the secondary should be fine. The linebacking corps will need to be very assignment focused, communicative, and rely on help from safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Juan Thornhill in a big way in the passing game. Look for Daniel Sorensen to play a big role in tonight’s game. That is a terrifying thought if you take yourself back 2 months, but recently Sorensen has been Johnny on the Spot, performing very well during the Chiefs 6 game winning streak. The defense cannot, under any circumstances, allow the Chargers to gash them on third and long, or give up multiple big plays. That is what killed the Chiefs in week 3, and has been something that the unit has improved upon immensely in the previous 6 weeks – let’s hope we do not see regression tonight. If Chris Jones is out, the pressure is going to fall on the extremely broad shoulders of Jarran Reed to step up and lead the interior of the defensive line. We will still have Frank Clark and Melvin Ingram wreaking havoc outside – Reed can more than earn the big money in that contract tonight if he shows up and dominates.
I’m not going to talk about the threat that the Chargers pose, or who they have that can kill the Chiefs. We all know that. This game particularly is going to be able the Chiefs controlling what they can control. Hold on the the ball. Wrap up and form tackle. Keep your man in front of you. Block through the echo of the whistle. Do not commit senseless penalties. This team shot themselves in the foot in week 3 and couldn’t recover. They won’t make the same mistake twice. This team has shown over and over again this season that they are resilient, and they can win in a lot of different ways. Tonight is going to show you a new way the Chiefs can win a game, and will go a long way in sealing a record 6th straight AFC West title and hopefully another 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
Chiefs 31, Chargers 28