Published: Sat, December 16, 2017
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

AFC West Showdown: 5 biggest storylines for Chargers vs. Chiefs

AFC West Showdown: 5 biggest storylines for Chargers vs. Chiefs

The Chargers lost Pro Bowl CB Jason Verrett, promising second-round rookie lineman Forrest Lamp and veteran guard Matt Slauson earlier in the year, but it's been mostly quiet on the injury front, which is especially important with playoffs on the line.

Chargers' quarterback Philip Rivers, who turned 36 last week, is playing like an MVP candidate.

Below is a Sunday game to watch and the complete Week 15 schedule and TV (all times Eastern). Tied atop the AFC West, Kansas City and L.A. are battling for sole possession of first place in the division. KC will also get the Chargers in a home game this week, where they have easily been the better team. Just look at this Star Wars-inspired video from the Chargers. Allen has averaged 137 yards on 10 catches during the last four games, all Chargers wins.

The Chargers and Chiefs are pretty even in this one, and the line represents that fact by the listing as even. The Chiefs are giving up about 125 yards per game on the ground. The Chargers rank ninth this season with an efficiency of 59.45.

The tale of the tape for this matchup should be the abhorrent run defenses.

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith is at his best when he's versatile. RB Kareem Hunt had 138 yards from scrimmage (116 rushing) with a rushing touchdown last week.

Alex Smith versus the fearsome Chargers pass rush. The running game opens up the pass which opens up the run. If he hangs on and tries to wait for a big play Smith will likely end up on his back quite a bit.

That pendulum of emotions was felt in Kansas City this year with the Chiefs' strong 5-0 start, followed by six losses in seven games. That's why people don't question when one team is favored against another that has a better record. The following week, Koo missed what would have been a go-ahead field goal with nine seconds left against the Dolphins. If rabbits like Tyrell Williams or Travis Benjamin are able to get by the defensive back it's really hard for a safety to get to them in time to stop a monster gain. Of course, then they still have to deal with Keenan Allen on the intermediate stuff and that's no picnic either. LB Justin Houston had a sack in Week 14.

Is the running game back?

The victor of Saturday's game will be in first place in the the division and both teams have relatively easy schedules to close out the season. Similarly, the Chiefs have a 95 percent chance of getting in with a win, but only a 31 percent chance of getting in with a loss. The spread has been influenced by the aforementioned recent play of these teams. Rivers has not thrown an interception in a month and that one was an overtime heave against Jacksonville that was probably as much Benjamin's fault as his. But the Chargers still have to get there first. He'll need to make that felt against a runner who rarely goes down on first contact.

Derek's Prediction: Chiefs 23, Chargers 17. The first of those was a victory over a Bills team that had benched Tyrod Taylor for an very bad Nathan Peterman.

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