The Los Angeles Chargers travel to Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday night to face the Kansas City Chiefs in a divisional matchup that could shape the NFL Playoffs. Ben Steele expects the home side to continue their march towards top spot in the AFC...
"Andy Reid's offence has been the toast of the NFL, with his side scoring 26 or more points in all 13 of their games this season, as he has developed Mahomes in to one of the most exciting signal-callers in recent memory."
Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs
Friday 14th December 01:20
Live on Sky Sports Main Event & Sky Sports Action
AFC West powerhouses set for electric encounter
On opening day Tyreek Hill powered Kansas City to a 38-28 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers and truly set the tone for the Chiefs' season. Hill, a track star in college with Olympic speed, returned a punt for a touchdown with his first touch of the season and then caught two touchdown passes from Patrick Mahomes and made himself an early season MVP candidate. His quarterback, Mahomes, has accelerated away from Hill in that particular race but the pair have been exceptional all season. The Kansas pair have had a seemingly telepathic connection this year, an understanding that was highlighted by a game-saving 4th down conversion against Baltimore last Sunday.
Andy Reid's offence has been the toast of the NFL, with his side scoring 26 or more points in all 13 of their games this season, as he has developed Mahomes in to one of the most exciting signal-callers in recent memory. The veteran head coach has not lost to the Chargers since 2013 and will be looking to make it 10 straight wins against his divisional rivals.
That opening day loss has haunted the Chargers all season, their 10-3 record is the second best in the AFC but is only good enough for second in the AFC West. It has been a season of ups and downs for LA, but led by the evergreen Philip Rivers on offence and rookie star Derwin James on defence they have battled their way to an impressive record. Rivers and the offence have been clinical over the last couple of weeks, particularly during their 45-10 victory over a poor Arizona Cardinals side in week 12 and will need to repeat that sort of offensive performance at Arrowhead Stadium.
Learning from Baltimore is the best bet for the Bolts
Kansas City beat the Baltimore Ravens 27-24 last week but the Lamar Jackson inspired Ravens may well have provided the blueprint for how to beat Kansas. John Harbaugh's side utilised the unique skillset of quarterback Jackson and played a ball control, run heavy style of offence while bringing a large amount of blitz pressure to try and disrupt Mahomes and the Chiefs' attack. While Rivers is no way near as mobile as Jackson, he certainly has the ability to bend defences to his will and control the clock.
Unfortunately he may well have to do it all himself. Both stating running back Melvin Gordon (MCL Sprain) and his backup Austin Ekeler (concussion) are expected to miss the game, music to the ears of a Kansas defence who rank amongst the worst in the league against the run.
It may well be difficult for the Chargers to copy Baltimore on offence but defensively they should be well set. The return of Joey Bosa has galvanised a defensive line that had struggled earlier in the season. The third-year star has four sacks in his last three games and his ability to bully offensive lineman will keep Mahomes on his toes. The addition of a genuine threat from the pass rush will be welcomed by a Chargers secondary who are already in the top 10 against the pass this season. Derwin James has made himself favourite to win defensive rookie of the year and the free agent acquisition of Casey Hayward has made Los Angeles a formidable defensive outfit.
The two games Kansas have lost this term have seen them struggle with turnovers, a problem highlighted by the LA Rams scoring a pair of defensive touchdowns and capitalising on the gung-ho style of Mahomes to close out the win. If the Chargers are to give themselves hope of postponing the seemingly inevitable; the Chiefs wrapping up the AFC West.
Pass happy Chiefs need to find balance for the playoffs
Having already secured a fourth consecutive playoff appearance Kansas City now need to develop a more balanced offensive unit if they are to make a genuine run at a Super Bowl title. Reid started the season relying on the immensely talented Kareem Hunt to lead the ground game but after a much publicised off-field incident the 23-year-old was released and Kansas turned to Spencer Ware. Since Ware's signing the Chiefs have become considerably more reliant on their spectacular passing game, Mahomes has had 91 pass attempts in the last two games and as talented as he is that is maybe too heavy a workload for such a young quarterback.
The Texan, is likely to have enough to get the win on Thursday night and clinch a first round bye in the playoffs, a rest he may well need. With Hill and Travis Kelce leading the way downfield the Chargers have to focus on stopping the pass, which should generate opportunities for Ware and the rest of the Kansas backfield.
The NFL games that have been played in primetime have, on the whole, lived up to the hype this season. I expect the same again, with Kansas City securing their 12th win of the season.