Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers Preview and Prediction
After winning their first game comfortably, the Kansas City Chiefs head to Carson, California, to face the Los Angeles Chargers, who narrowly won their Week 1 matchup against Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 16-13. The Chiefs have won nine of their last 10 games against the Chargers, with their lone loss coming on a Thursday Night Football game in Arrowhead back in 2018, a game I went to. Luckily for you, I will not be attending this one, so you know the Chiefs are coming out on top.
Stat to Know: The Chargers' offensive line has allowed 621 pressures since 2017.
As much as Chiefs fans love to go after Phillip Rivers, it must be acknowledged that he has dealt with an offensive line situation that might be even worse than what Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson have had to deal with. Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded the Chargers as the second-worst pass-blocking unit in 2019 with a stunning 210 pressures allowed by their offensive line (For comparison, the Seahawks had 197 and the Texans had 186). They were also graded as the third-worst pass-blocking unit in 2018 with 217 pressures allowed (including a league-leading 73 pressures allowed for OT Sam Tevi) and the fourth-worst pass-blocking unit in 2017 with 188 pressures allowed.
Matchup to Watch: Keenan Allen vs. L'Jarius Sneed
After some early struggles, including a missed tackle on David Johnson's touchdown to put Houston ahead, Sneed bounced back and put on a quality performance against the Texans. Sneed allowed two catches on six targets for 19 yards and he hauled in an interception, helping get him a passer rating allowed of 3.5. With a four-game suspension to Bashaud Breeland and Charvarius Ward out with a fractured hand, it will be up to Sneed to be the Chiefs' number one cornerback for this game and potentially more.
On the other side, we have Keenan Allen, one of the best route-running wide receivers in the NFL. Allen has hauled in at least 1,199 yards and at least six touchdowns in each of the last three seasons and he has reliable hands as well, dropping just nine passes on 291 targets since 2018. As a result, Allen just received a large extension earlier this month, making him one of the highest-paid receivers in the game. If Sneed has to cover Allen, he will certainly have his hands full with the crafty three-time Pro Bowler.
Key to the Game: Can the Chargers' secondary cause some issues for the Chiefs' offense?
Despite the loss of Derwin James, the Chargers' secondary is far better than the Texans' secondary. The Chargers bring some great cornerbacks to the table, with two-time All-Pro Casey Heyward, 2018 first-team All-Pro Desmond King, and their new acquisition, three-time All-Pro Chris Harris Jr. PFF has graded Harris as the second-best cornerback since they started in 2006, and Heyward and King as the second- and third-best cornerbacks since 2017.
The Chargers' secondary started the 2020 season off very well, with the Bengals passing game having -8.6 expected points added in their Week 1 matchup. This is especially impressive considering they had 17.1 expected points added on Thursday night against the Browns.
This group is undoubtedly one of the best cornerback trios in the NFL and it sure beats a secondary giving consistent snaps to Eric Murray, Vernon Hargreaves and Lonnie Johnson Jr.
The Chiefs' historically good receiver room should still come out on top here, but this is going to be one of the tougher secondaries they will face.
Prediction: Chiefs 31, Chargers 17
I believe the Chiefs will have some hiccups in this one with certain units against certain pieces of this Chargers team, but for the most part, the Chiefs will roll through them. The Chargers' defense gives some concern, but the Chiefs have faced tougher defenses and thrived against them at times. Look for lots of pressure on Tyrod Taylor, mainly from Chris Jones and Frank Clark, (Jones especially). Also hope for Willie Gay Jr. to play, as he is absolutely the Chiefs' most talented linebacker and him playing zero snaps in Week 1 played out exactly as you'd expect.