This Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs will take on the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chiefs are currently 1-1 on the season following a shocking one-point loss to the Baltimore Ravens, and the Chargers are 1-1 following a three-point loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
This will be the third time that Justin Herbert will play the Chiefs, the second time that Herbert and Patrick Mahomes will face off, and the first time that Herbert will face the Chiefs' starters at Arrowhead Stadium. While his basic numbers have been poor, in reality, he has been playing much better than that and made some unbelievable throws in the Dallas loss.
Fact to Know: The Chargers, like the Chiefs, have one of the worst run defenses in the NFL
While the Chiefs' run defense has been the worst in years, the Chargers are also seeing some really poor run defense themselves. Los Angeles has allowed the third-most rushing yards and second-highest yards per rush, and it also has the third-worst run defense grade from Pro Football Focus (PFF). While the Chiefs should still be throwing the ball about 70% of the time, this is a team they can actually exploit on the ground if they block properly and Clyde Edwards-Helaire finds the holes that he should.
A big part of why the Chargers' run defense has been so bad is their defensive interior, led by Jerry Tillery and Linval Joseph. This season, Tillery's run defense has been the second-worst among defensive tackles per PFF. Joseph hasn't done much better, as his run defense ranks fifth-worst among defensive tackles. These two have played 95 and 80 snaps, respectively, while just one other Charger defensive tackle has played more than 22 snaps. If these two can't figure it out, then the Chargers will have a clear and massive hole in their defense for the rest of this season and they will have a clear and obvious draft need.
Matchup to Watch: Lucas Niang vs. Joey Bosa
Right tackle Lucas Niang has gotten off to a hot start in his first two starts with the Chiefs, having the highest grade among offensive linemen for PFF. Niang allowed zero pressures in last week's game against Baltimore and his run blocking has been pretty good in each of the first two weeks as well. Now, this will be quite the matchup for him, as the Chargers have one of the best edge defenders in the NFL in Joey Bosa.
Bosa has been fantastic to start the season, as usual, with a 90.3 pass-rushing grade from PFF over the first two games. He has been an animal for some time. Bosa is almost always hot, he's a premier talent and a top-five edge defender in the game. Niang could probably keep Bosa contained in regards to the run game, but the passing game is much more important and Niang is going to need to really show his A-game to hold off Bosa on Sunday.
Key to the Game: The Chiefs must keep their foot on the gas
Last week, the Chiefs had a 95% win probability in their game against the Baltimore Ravens in the third quarter. After that, the offense had an interception, a punt and a fumble, while the defense allowed two touchdowns and a game-clinching first-down. This is obviously unacceptable for a Super Bowl quest. The Chiefs need to make sure that they can take a lead and hold it confidently until the final whistle is blown.
Prediction: Chiefs 38, Chargers 34
I think we are going to see a back-and-forth shootout battle in this one, with Herbert and Mahomes throwing haymakers all game long and Austin Ekeler putting on a show as well. The duo of Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill still should come out of this as the group getting all of the attention and praise, with them combining for well over a hundred yards and multiple touchdowns. With that said, the Chargers will not make this comfortable. This team is a wild-card contender for sure, so we can't be surprised if the Chargers even come out on top with the potential of another defensive meltdown for the Chiefs.