Chiefs-Chargers Keys and Matchups: Battle For AFC West Supremacy In Mexico City
Matchups To Watch
Tyreek Hill vs. Casey Hayward
Who doesn’t love to see a freakish athlete at receiver matched up against a really good corner? Hayward won’t shadow Tyreek for this entire game, partially because of the high altitude and partially based on scheme, but he will get his fair share of snaps against Hill, despite not having the speed to match Tyreek on deep passes. Last season Hill torched Hayward for a 58-yard touchdown en route to a 7 catch for 169 yards a 2 touchdowns day in the first matchup. The rematch seemed to be more in favor of Hayward, as Tyreek was held to 4 catches for 46 yards. This battle is definitely one to pay close attention to, but don’t blink because Hill could streak past Hayward and take off for the easy score at any point in the game.
Chris Jones And Frank Clark vs. Backup Offensive Linemen
If there was ever a game that Jones and Clark were asked to take over a game, this should be the one. The Chargers’ offensive line is riddled with injury, and 4 of the 5 starters from the beginning of the season won’t be playing in this game. Jones and Clark should dominate their one on one matchups, force double teams, and open things up for other players to step up.
Melvin Gordon vs. Chiefs’ Run Defense
Fresh off a 22 carry for 108 yards and 1 touchdown game against the Raiders, Gordon has to be licking his chops looking at a Chiefs’ defense that has been very inconsistent, but mostly bad against the run this season. Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has to know that Gordon is a major part of the Chargers’ game plan this week, and should focus on beefing up his run defense, even if its only for this week.
Keenan Allen vs. Chiefs’ Corners
Allen is the main receiving threat for the Chargers, and is facing a Chiefs’ cornerback group that has had its share of highs and lows. Allen doesn’t really have the speed to run away from any of the corners, but his good route running can get him all the separation he needs to extend drives and keep the Chargers’ offense moving.
Mahomes vs. Rivers
The young quarterback with a cannon for an arm, vs. the experienced, competitive vet. While these two won’t be on the field at the same time, this is a matchup that has a chance to light a fire under both players. Mahomes has the talent and explosive offense that could bring out the best in Rivers, who will do his best to match Mahomes throw for throw, causing the scoreboard to light up for both teams. If this game becomes a shootout, everyone will be highly entertained watching these two duel it out.
Keys To Victory
Handle The Altitude
Mexico City has the highest altitude of any stadium that a game will be played in this year, and with that comes some challenges. The oxygen is thinner; making is easier for players from either team to get winded. This will work against anyone asked to cover Tyreek Hill in man, considering he will run all over the field pre and post snap. It will also make it vitally important for Kansas City to have a good rotation on the defensive line to stop them from wearing down and being completely exhausted in the 4 quarter.
Don’t Let Bosa/Ingram Get To Mahomes
Keeping Mahomes upright and untouched should be in the game plan every week. He is the most valuable player on this team, and without him, the Super Bowl aspirations go out the window. The Chiefs finally have all 5 of their starting offensive linemen healthy, and it couldn’t have come at a better time with Bosa and Ingram being on the defensive line for the opponent this week. If they can keep Bosa and Ingram in check, Kansas City has a great chance to throttle this Chargers team.
Take Gordon Out Of The Game
The running game has been the Achilles’ heel for the Chiefs’ defense this season, which is unfortunate considering the Chargers’ newfound fascination with running the football. If Gordon can find some space to operate this week, the Chargers will be able to stay in the game and keep Mahomes off the field. The defense has to be gap disciplined, and finish the play by wrapping up and bringing down the ball carrier. Missed assignments or missed tackles are back breakers for this Chiefs’ defense that is still trying to find their footing in the new scheme. Mahomes and the offense can also aid in taking Gordon out of the game plan by scoring a lot of early points, forcing Rivers to look to the air to turn this game into a potential shootout.
Pressure Rivers Into Mistakes
Rivers gun slinging mentality leaves him turnover prone, and when he feels pressure from the pass rush, his likelihood of giving the ball away skyrockets. The Chiefs have to focus in on a beat up offense line and take advantage of the backups all over the Chargers’ offensive line. They can win one on one matchups more often than usual this week, but can also turn up the heat by sending additional blitzers, or at least showing blitz to confuse blocking schemes and possibly free up a rusher to get a clean shot at the quarterback.
Find The Defense’s Identity
The Chiefs’ defense has been a real Jekyll and Hyde this season. They struggled against the run early in the season, before finding a way to slow down the Broncos, Packers, and Vikings rushing attacks while Mahomes was injured. They played more complete team games without their star quarterback, rising to the occasion to give backup Matt Moore a chance. Mahomes returned last week, and the defense seemed to exhale and take their foot off the gas, leading to a 188 yard rushing day from Derrick Henry for the Titans. So what defense is the real one? Is it the defense that doesn’t tackle well, doesn’t play disciplined, and relies on the star quarterback to bail them out, or is it the defense that showed flashes of their capabilities for the 3 game stretch in the middle of the year? They have to find a way to step up their game.