Heading into the 2021 campaign, many expected the Los Angeles Chargers to be the second-best team in the AFC West behind only the Kansas City Chiefs. Two weeks into the season, both teams are looking up at the Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders in the divisional standings.
The Chargers, 1-1, won their season-opening matchup against the Washington Football Team before falling to the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday. The Chiefs experienced a similar fate, winning in Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns before dropping their second game of the year on Sunday, a thriller in Baltimore vs. the Ravens.
After a pair of games to begin the season, both the Chiefs and the Chargers have a bit of soul searching to do. Offensively, Los Angeles is dealing with a relatively new offensive line forming together in an effort to protect rising star Justin Herbert. The Chiefs, meanwhile, field an entirely new unit this year that's tasked with keeping superstar signal-caller Patrick Mahomes's nose clean. The similarities don't stop there, though.
The other side of the ball is where these teams have some legitimate work to do. The Chiefs' defensive struggles are well documented, as Steve Spagnuolo's unit ranks dead last in rushing yards and total yards per game. It also sits in the bottom five in scoring through two games. The Chargers don't have two of those three issues, but Fernando Ramirez of Charger Report joined me on today's Roughing the Kicker podcast to discuss where defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill's group "runs" into trouble.
While the Chiefs hold a comfortable (more like uncomfortable) lead on the rest of the NFL when it comes to rushing yards surrendered (404 — 202 per game), the Chargers are also in the bottom five at 324 (162 per game). The Cowboys' duo of Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott gashed Bradley's defense a week ago, and Antonio Gibson had solid success the game prior. Run defense is a legitimate concern for a Chargers defense that is otherwise proficient in many areas.
Luckily for both defenses, neither opposing offense boasts a heavy rushing attack. Austin Ekeler is more of a dual-threat weapon for Herbert at this point, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire's second season hasn't gotten off on the right foot. With that said, this would be a perfect game for either or both of these offenses to temporarily shift their philosophies from moving the sticks through the air to a bit more of an emphasis placed on the ground. If there was ever a good week for a "get right" game rushing-wise, it's this one.
Again, both the Chiefs and the Chargers are still finding themselves. Don't get me wrong: Kansas City is still the top dog in the AFC and the Chargers look like a scrappy potential playoff team. Records mean next to nothing after just two weeks. This Week 3 matchup, though, does present an interesting opportunity for either side to have some success doing something they aren't particularly known for. Sunday will tell if they find something new that works.
Read More: Now Isn't the Time to Worry About the Chiefs
Subscribe to Roughing the Kicker on YouTube for exclusive content and previews of each episode before they drop.
Want to get involved in the RTK community? Tweet using #RTKPod with questions and comments.