Chargers News: Chargers-Chiefs PREVIEW

 (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
(Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

To put a positive spin on this week’s flexed-out San Diego Chargers‘ home game against the visiting Chiefs on Sunday, we can at least be thankful that we won’t have to listen to another one of the national broadcast teams be critical of San Diego fans for not filling up Qualcomm Stadium and allowing the visiting team a fifty-fifty showing for the league’s featured contest of the week on Sunday Night Football

Not that the Chiefs – with one of the most passionate and notable home bases – are the biggest travelers, nor are there thousands of bandwagoners ready to pack on the Q on Sunday afternoon (the game is now a regular regionally-televised 1:05 p.m. start/CBS – announcers: Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots). Still, there will be still be several thousand midwest transplants and many incoming traveling fans, as well, as Kansas City tries to revive its season after last week’s domination of offensively-challenged Denver in the Mile High city last Sunday.

Just because the league flexed the 2-7 Chargers and the 4-5 Chiefs out of the Sunday night slot for top league contenders Cincinnati and Arizona, don’t bet on the fact that the the AFC West rivals could produce at least a more exciting game. After all, the Bengals’ offense was downright dismal in a home loss to punchless Houston Monday night, Cincy’s first loss of the season and the Cardinals snoozed through the first half along with opponent Seattle on Sunday night, before awakening for a signature road victory against the NFC powerhouse.

And we at least know the Chargers – as awful as the final outcome has been on several occasions this season – can produce fireworks on a moment’s notice. Philip Rivers has been one of primetime football’s best friends over the years thanks to his colorful signal calls, thrilling comebacks with wild yardage totals and his post-game affability.

The Chiefs don’t necessarily play, however, into San Diego’s hands, as their ball-control, ground-game led offense is often a pain to watch, and quarterback Alex Smith, from La Mesa, is seen as one of the most pedestrian QBs in the league and is the poster-boy for quarterback game-managing. Smith’s downfield throws are easily among the lowest in distance in the league.

Kansas City’s woes started with a knee injury to star back Jamaal Charles in week five. Former FCS running back Charcandrick West, from Abeline Christian, has filled in admirably, but the downgrade in the backfield has been part of the reason for the Chiefs’ latest decline, as Smith needs to rely heavily on a successful ground game. West has scored touchdowns in each of the last three games and he’ll have the luxury of going against a San Diego defense ranked 24th in the league against the run.

Credit: UT San Diego
Credit: UT San Diego

Smith’s top targets in the Chiefs’ tight-knit passing game are tight end Travis Kelce and veteran receiver Jeremy Maclin.

San Diego is in the middle of the pack overall defensively, but the Chargers are better at stopping wideouts than tight ends, and Kelce is a near certainty to catch at least five balls from Smith in the short game, although he has scored just one touchdown this season. Maclin, meanwhile, has seen his targets drop dramatically over his last three game appearances (missing one game with an injury), while the Chiefs’ other compliment in the running game, Knile Davis, was listed as questionable early in the week.

With all the Chargers’ injuries this season, plus lack of a solid running game, Rivers’ offensive success has been nothing short of astonishing. San Diego fizzled, however, in the second half leading into the bye week, as the Chargers managed just three points after leading 16-7 over the Bears in what could have been their last prime time televised game at home, even if the team sticks around for another or two, as they may fail to get an invite for a night game next season.

Rivers saw his streak of at least 300 yards come to an end after five games, throwing for 280 against Chicago.

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Operating with a rag-tag group of mostly second-tier linemen, Rivers has managed to stay upright thanks to his quick thinking and rapid-fire delivery.

Receiver Steven Johnson and tight end Antonio Gates get the Lions’ share this week of the downfield balls, but Rivers is making a killing with the use of back Danny Woodhead, who is the team’s leading active receiver this season with 45 catches. Kansas City is one of the top teams in the NFL, however, at defending against targeted tight ends, and Gates‘ capable counterpart, Ladarius Green – is another of the Chargers’ wounded.

Still, expect Antonio to likely get more than his average share of targets out of necessity. His usefulness and success likely determined if he can cut and pivot, which plagued him over the two weeks entering the bye.

Meanwhile, 34-year-old Malcolm Floyd, who was expected to step up to WR1 in the absence of injured Keenan Allen, is out with an injured shoulder and was listed as questionable early in the week, although most reports have him missing an undermined amount of time.

The Chargers’ injury report for Sunday looks like it has most of the season:

CB Patrick Robinson neck
left last game, is “?” Sunday vs Kansas City.
WR Malcom Floyd shoulder
left last game, is “?” Sunday vs Kansas City.
LB Manti Te’o ankle
missed last game, is “?” Sunday vs Kansas City.
LB Denzel Perryman bicep
missed last game, is “?” Sunday vs Kansas City.
DE Corey Liuget foot
missed last game, is “?” Sunday vs Kansas City.
OT King Dunlap ankle
missed last game, is “?” Sunday vs Kansas City.
G Orlando Franklin leg
missed last game, is “?” Sunday vs Kansas City.
TE Ladarius Green ankle
missed last game, is “?” Sunday vs Kansas City.

 

Meanwhile, the team still is searching for flashes from rookie back Melvin Gordon, who leads the team in rushing with 413 years, while inexperienced WR Dontrelle Inman made fans cringe with his week 9 fumble as Floyd’s replacement.

Other Chargers who could have their number called on Sunday include WR Javonte Herndon and RB Donald Brown, who has played just five plays from scrimmage this season.

(AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
(AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Kansas City has an above average run defense and its overall defense ranks just above the middle of the pack, however, their weakness has come in guarding wideouts.

Nothing comes easy, however, when your playing on a shaky foundation.

San Diego has forced just 11 turnovers this season and its 27.7 points allowed ranks in the league’s bottom five for points allowed.

The Chiefs’ defense is led by heart-and-soul defensive back Eric Berry, who was sidelined with cancer after just six weeks last season, but has battled the disease and has played in every game this season. Linebacker Justin Houston has 7 1/2 sacks entering Sunday, while rookie DB Marcus Peters has four interceptions on the year.

Kansas City has won both meetings last season, including a 23-20 win here last October. Las Vegas oddsmakers list the Chiefs as a 3-point road favorite, with the combined game point total at 45. That would point to a Chiefs’ win, 24-21.

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Ramon Scott
Ramon Scott is a Southern California based publisher, editor and sportswriter, covering the preps to the pros for over 25 years.

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