Preview: Chargers at Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs have a chance to take a huge step toward tightening their grip on the top overall seed and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs when they host the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night. However, the Chiefs could see control of the conference as well as the AFC West diminish in a showdown for division supremacy against Los Angeles.
History is on the side of Kansas City (11-2), which has won nine in a row over the Chargers (10-3) and extended the streak with a 38-28 victory in Los Angeles in the season opener. “The Chargers are a good team — a team that’s on a hot streak right now — and you’re basically playing for the AFC West title,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “You have to go out there and try to get yourself ready to go — physically and mentally – to win a football game.” Los Angeles has won three in a row overall and can clinch a playoff spot with a victory Thursday, but its last win over Kansas City was in 2013 — the last time the franchise advanced to the postseason. “The nine in a row is one thing, but personally I’m 0-3 against this team, and that’s too many,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “We’re doing everything we can to try to break that streak. We’ve got to go out and play relaxed and very confident. That’s when this team plays its best football.”
TV: 8:20 p.m. ET, FOX, NFL Network. LINE: Chiefs -3.5. O/U: 53
ABOUT THE CHARGERS (10-3): Los Angeles could again be without star running back Melvin Gordon, who has 13 total touchdowns despite missing the past two games and told reporters Tuesday that he expects to be a game-day decision. Backup Austin Ekeler sustained a neck injury and concussion in Sunday’s win over Cincinnati and is expected to sit out, leaving the possibility that rookies Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome will carry the ground game. Philip Rivers, who is third in the league in passer rating (114.5) and has thrown for 29 touchdowns against six interceptions, has connected with wideout Keenan Allen with a scoring pass in five straight games. Joey Bosa has four sacks in four games since returning to the lineup.
ABOUT THE CHIEFS (11-2): Kansas City has withstood a pair of close calls the past two weeks since running back Kareem Hunt was abruptly released, but Mahomes supplied a late touchdown pass in each game and enters Thursday’s matchup with a league-leading 43 scoring strikes. Injuries are also a major concern for the Chiefs, who are uncertain about the status of wide receiver Tyreek Hill (foot) and expect to be without running back Spencer Ware (shoulder/hamstring). Hill torched the Chargers in the season opener with a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown and two scoring passes from Mahomes, who also has passed for an NFL-high 4,300 yards. Kansas City’s defense ranks 30th in total yards and is last against the pass (281.8 yards).
1. Chiefs DE Chris Jones has at least one sack in nine consecutive games, the longest single-season streak since 1982.
2. Allen had eight catches for 108 yards and a TD in the Week 1 matchup.
3. Chiefs WR Kelvin Benjamin, claimed off waivers last week, is expected to make his Kansas City debut.