The Chiefs bring a five-game winning streak into their season finale against the Los Angeles Chargers, but their dominance with the AFC West extends much longer, Kansas City already claimed its fourth-straight division title, and the club has won six-straight and 26 of their last 28 games against divisional opponents. Here are the matchups and keys as to seek to extend those streaks.
Matchups To Watch
Chiefs TE Travis Kelce vs. Chargers S Derwin James
James didn’t play the last time these two team meet, and his return gives the Chargers an athlete who can matchup well against Kelce in the Chiefs’ offensive attack. James can make it extremely difficult for Kelce to get open without rub routes and other schemes to free him. Kelce needs to use his size to bully James around and take advantage anytime the Chargers drop into zone coverage.
Chiefs Defensive Ends vs. Chargers Offensive Tackles
With Russell Okung out, the Chargers will start rookie Trey Pipkins at left tackle with Sam Tevi at right tackle. Pipkins struggled in the previous meeting between the clubs, giving up quick pressure off the edge and frequently getting driven back into the pocket. Tevi didn’t play against the Chiefs earlier this year, but has shown that he can be beat with speed or power off the edge. Frank Clark and Terrell Suggs should spend a majority of the game harassing Rivers because both players can overwhelm these two tackles.
Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes vs. Chargers Defensive Ends
The last time these two clubs met, Mahomes used his legs to escape the rush and extend plays while leading the club with 59 yards on the ground and taking just one sack. He can use the snap count to get the ultra-aggressive defensive ends to jump off sides. If Mahomes can keep Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram off balance with his legs and snap count again, the Chiefs should have another win in this rivalry.
Chiefs Defensive Tackles vs. Chargers RG Michael Schofield
Schofield gave up a sack to run-stuffing defensive tackle Mike Pennel when these two teams met in November. He struggles to consistently anchor against a strong bull rush, and can get walked back into quarterback Philip Rivers. Expect Chris Jones and Derrick Nnadi to frequently win their matchups against him.
Chiefs Safeties vs. Chargers Running Backs
The Chargers plan to get both Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler involved in the ground and air game. The duo combined for 93 yards rushing and 129 yards receiving the last time they faced the Chiefs’ defense. Ekeler was the target on the game-sealing interception by Dan Sorensen in the end zone. The Kansas City safeties will have their hands full trying to limit this stable of talented backs.
Keys To Victory
The Chiefs need help to secure the No. 2 seed and a first-round playoff bye, but it also takes more than a loss on Sunday for the club to drop to the No. 4 seed. The Chiefs have one eye on the postseason, which could setup a flat performance. Kansas City needs to maintain their focus ride a six-game winning streak into the playoffs.
Keep Rivers In The Kitchen Making Turnovers
Rivers has been giving the ball away at an alarming rate this season, including four interceptions when he last faced the Chiefs. The Chargers’ porous offensive line leaves him with little protection, and he should face plenty of pressure again this week. If Rivers turns the ball over more than once, the Chargers won’t have a chance in Arrowhead.
Take Away Chargers Run Game
The Chargers have plenty of reliable weapons on offense with tight end Hunter Henry and receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. But running backs Gordon and Ekeler truly make this offense go. The Chiefs must slow slow down the run game and limiting the damage Gordon and Ekeler dish out in the passing game.
Find A Reliable Third Option In Passing Game
Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill have been studs for the Chiefs offense this year, but no one else has established themselves as a reliably consistent third threat. Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson delivered big games and Mecole Hardman posted splash plays a few times this year, but none have staked their claim as big-time No. 3 option. That needs to change going into the playoffs.
Don’t Commit Defensive Pass Interference On The 50-50 Shots Downfield
Kansas City helped Los Angeles in their last matchup with two pass interference flags for 52 yards on a third-quarter touchdown drive for the Chargers. The Chiefs got lucky that it didn’t cost them the first matchup with the Chargers, they can’t test their luck and let it be an issue again.