The AFC West title is up for grabs. But will it be the Chiefs or the Chargers who put one foot in the play-offs? Neil Harvey looks ahead...
"Kareem Hunt has to get first downs early on for Kansas. If not, they are doomed. The LA defense has conceded an average of just 17 points a game all season. And Alex Smith, with his limited skill set of short passes, is not the wolf who's going to blow down the Chargers' door."
Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday December 17th, 01:30 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
They say that you should always go with your first instincts. Well mine are screaming 'Chargers victory' here. What I cannot get away from is the number of times I have seen the Chiefs secondary exposed to the point of embarrassment over the last 12 months. The Chiefs do many things well, but defending a well thrown deep ball isn't one of them. And it just so happens that's one of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers' strengths.
Chargers offense sizzling
Rivers cut the Redskins to pieces last week with a series of deep passes, including a 75 yard touchdown throw to Tyrell Williams. And Rivers has lots of options when it comes to throwing deep. Keenan Allen looks back to his best, which makes him one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. With over a thousand yards and five TDs already, he's just starting to hit his stride. And that's a phrase that really does suit this offense. Because it's just starting to peak in terms of performances. Tight end Hunter Henry has slowly gained momentum, but now has four scores under his belt. While Travis Benjamin, another deep-running speedster, is also getting targets, and catching them.
Quite frankly, Rivers is spoiled for choice. Perhaps more than he's ever been. And just to put the cherry on the cake, he has a really good ground game to fall back on. Melvin Gordon hasn't lit up the league quite the way he did last season, but that's been largely down to the growth of the team's passing game. And with 800+ yards and six TDs - he's definitely still getting the job done. Plus watch out for Austin Ekeler, who's emerging as a pretender to Gordon's throne. The LA offense is sizzling with talent and the timing seems right for them. They and the Chiefs are tied at 7-6 at the top of the AFC West, so winning this game is crucial. But I can see the the Chargers taking it, and going on to cause upsets in the postseason.
Chiefs need big games from big names
Kansas fans will take great exception with what I've said about their defense no doubt. And it's true, they do have Marcus Peters back from suspension at cornerback this week, plus recent signing Darrelle Revis. But Peters' reputation arguably hasn't been matched by his performances. And Revis isn't the player he once was - signing a player out of retirement is always a risk. Plus if the Chiefs are so good, then why'd they lost four of their last five? And beating the floundering Raiders last week doesn't come close to making things right.
To win this week, the Chiefs need to get their running game going, something Dallas failed to do a couple of weeks back against the Chargers. Kareem Hunt has to get first downs early on for Kansas. If not, they are doomed. The LA defense has conceded an average of just 17 points a game all season. And Alex Smith, with his limited skill set of short passes, is not the wolf who's going to blow down the Chargers' door.
Gadget man Tyreek Hill is the wildcard though for Kansas. He's a difficult player to contain and they'll no doubt have lots of special plays prepared for him. Hill can keep this game close for the home team.
Henry on the hunt
Travis Kelce backers have made regular money this season. But this is a tougher day than most for him. And if there is to be a tight end who'll put up decent yardage, I fancy it will be Hunter Henry. The Chiefs have given up the most yards per catch to tight ends in the league, and Henry is trending up. It's Keenan Allen though I expect to be LA's red zone target. He's their star receiver, the most talented of the bunch, and the man Rivers looks to most often when the heat is on.
5pts LA Chargers to win @ 1.9720/21
1pt HT-Kansas/FT-LA @ 7/1
3pts Tyreek Hill Over 64.5 receiving yards @ 2.001/1
1pt Tyreek Hill to score 1st Kansas TD @ 9/2
1pt Keenan Allen to score 1st TD @ 15/2
1pt Keenan Allen to score 2 TDs or more @ 9/1
3pts Hunter Henry receiving yards Over 47.5 @ [5/6]