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Know the KC Chiefs' Opponent, Week 7: Key Facts About the Los Angeles Chargers

Each of the first five Mahomes-Herbert duels has been decided in one-score games. Ahead of another huge AFC West clash in Week 7, what's worth knowing about the Chargers?

No team in NFL history has ever clinched their division by Week 7, but the Kansas City Chiefs (5-1) could go a long way towards strengthening their grip on the AFC West crown following a victory over the Los Angeles Chargers (2-3) on Sunday.

Both participants in last year’s postseason, the two clubs are drifting in opposite directions. Anchored by a defense to match its offense, the Chiefs have run off five straight and are perched atop the conference. The Chargers, meanwhile, opened their bye week with a Monday Night Football loss and are in need of a quick regroup.

Here's what's worth knowing ahead of this Sunday’s battle:

When “calling shotgun” goes wrong

Assuming you weren’t too entertained by the Chargers' animated, passionate superfan, you likely noticed Justin Herbert’s accessory update. Nursing a broken finger on his non-throwing hand in Week 4, the Pro Bowl signal-caller — and thus, the offense — has adjusted its aesthetic.

Buried beneath the excitement of Austin Ekeler’s long-awaited return, the Chargers tailored a gameplan to protect Herbert, largely avoiding under-center snaps. The results: 53 yards, 23 carries (2.3 yards/tote), and zero runs of 10-plus yards.

Staying ahead of schedule has proved difficult for the Chargers, now averaging just 79.3 rushing yards over their last three, the NFL's sixth-worst mark.

Film showcased both rust and a lack of execution. Here's a likely example to Brandon Staley's point on the backs needing to “be more aggressive at the point of attack” and “trusting the scheme.” 

There lies the triple whammy: (1) their banged-up line wasn’t great to begin with, ranking No. 26 in pass block win rate and No. 16 in run block win rate, (2) Herbert's injury negating much threat of a run, and (3) shotgun running just being schematically more difficult, with less vision and no running start. Ekeler, during his 14-carry, 27-yard game, had just 0.6 yards pre-contact. To consider his numbers since 2021:

Under center: 270 carries, 1,290 yards (4.8/carry), 13 TD, 61 1D
Shotgun: 170 carries, 680 yards (4.0/carry), 13 TD, 41 1D

The Chiefs do allow 4.5 yards per carry, the ninth-highest, perhaps their lone defensive weakness. Javonte Williams introduced some of those vulnerabilities, and Ekeler is too talented to not challenge it similarly. It'll be one to watch.

How do the Chargers protect Herbert?

View a Chargers press conference or two, and you’ll quickly learn that there’s one thing you shouldn’t dare ask Staley about: the Jacksonville game. It’s old news, but some have suggested that the Chargers’ late-game psyche hasn't been the same since.

Early-season, late-game blunders include Staley's Week 2 timeout on third-and-2, allowing Tennessee to substitute in Derrick Henry, a failure to defensively convert a third-and-18 on Monday and Herbert’s interception that (perhaps unfairly) prompted discussion about his historic late-game interception totals.

Herbert isn’t blameless; Monday's -4.7 completion percentage over expected showcased plenty of poorly-thrown balls. The Chargers’ defense more than played to par, but perhaps more can be done.

The pressure numbers, for example, haven’t trended well.

On his most recent episode of The Edge, Micah Parsons discussed requesting the five-man rush, knowing he could exploit a one-on-one. The Chiefs, bolstered by Charles Omenihu's expected return, could certainly replicate it.

There's also having a full week to further incorporate first-round pick Quentin Johnston, only for him to produce nothing on 21 routes. Or the Chargers' continued tendency to sleepwalk on third-and-long. There's no guarantee, though, that it gets any easier in Week 7.

The X-Factor: Rashee Rice

It was difficult to not observe CeeDee Lamb’s 117-yard showcase on Monday without outwardly thinking, “The Chiefs might have a receiver capable of doing something remotely similar.”

Perennially an elite slot wideout, Lamb benefitted from the Cowboys’ decision to mix up his alignments, toggling through corners and curls on the perimeter, alongside his patented in-breakers. The final tally: a perfect seven-target, seven-completion night for the Prescott-to-Lamb grouping.

Enough Cowboys praise, though. Los Angeles enters Sunday ranking dead-last in yards per catch allowed (12.7!) with the fifth-most yards allowed (1,104) and third-most touchdowns (7) to receivers.

This might be a bad time to mention that only three receivers have been targeted at a higher rate than Rashee Rice. The Chiefs haven’t rushed in elevating his snap count but when No. 4 is in play, No. 15 has eyed his direction. Against heavy man-to-man, Rice could be poised to again challenge his career-high yardage total. 

What are the Chargers saying ahead of Week 7?

Brandon Staley, when asked about Khalil Mack’s resurgence:

“I think the easy answer is health. He’s really healthy, Lindsey (Thiry). And a healthy Khalil Mack is a productive Khalil Mack. And I think we’ve done an outstanding job against the run, Lindsey. Which has earned him more opportunity to rush. Against Jacobs and Pollard, we’ve had more opportunity to rush and I think he’s capitalized on his matchups.” 

Mack ranks third in sacks (7), with defensive end Morgan Fox closely behind with five.

Austin Ekeler, on Yahoo Sports’ Ekeler’s Edge:

"I know there was one, I think it was actually my first run of the game, which I would like to see myself get more downhill on that one. I was a little too indecisive. Had sloppy vision, sloppy eyes. My eyes weren’t in the right spot, so it kind of took me off of my read. Little things like that that add up in the game. It’s the difference between a one, two-yard, no gain and a five-yard, eight-yard gain which gets the drive going.”

Stats to Know

Against Dallas, Herbert was pressured on a season-high 47.6% of his dropbacks.

Each of the Mahomes vs. Herbert duels has been decided by six or fewer points, with Mahomes holding a 4-1 record.

Of the 10 teams currently sitting below .500, LA is the lone team with a positive point differential (3).

Chargers veteran punter JK Scott ranks last in yards per punt (40.7). Despite elite “hangtime” numbers, Scott ranks among the bottom in pEPA.

And finally, DVOA numbers.


  • DVOA: 5th
  • Offense: 6th
  • Defense: 9th
  • Special teams: 4th


  • DVOA: 14th
  • Offense: 8th
  • Defense: 26th
  • Special teams: 27th

Score Prediction: Chiefs 29, Chargers 21