Kansas City Chiefs vs. Los Angeles Chargers: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange  |  Sept. 21, 2017 at 5:20 PM
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KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (2-0) AT LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (0-2)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, StubHub Center. TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon.

SERIES HISTORY: 114th regular-season meeting. Chiefs lead series, 58-54-1.

The Chiefs own an 11-game winning streak against AFC West opponents and have won six straight against the Chargers. When these teams first squared off, the Chargers were in Los Angeles and the Chiefs were the Houston Texans, both of the American Football League. The Chargers own a 32-24-1 home record against Kansas City, but how that edge is realized at StubHub Center remains to be seen. Back in 1960, the Chargers beat the Texans at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, 21-20.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Chiefs stand 2-0 thanks to an offense that moves the ball in chunks and a defense that ratchets up pressure of the quarterback until it breaks through, and that game plan makes sense against the Chargers as well. The trio of Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt create mismatches that are difficult to defend.

The Chiefs can bring pressure on the quarterback from multiple directions thanks to Justin Houston and Dee Ford on the edges and Chris Jones on the inside.

The Chargers will be able to run the ball at some point, right? That hasn't been the case this year despite coach Anthony Lynn coming in with a running-game guru reputation. If L.A. can't establish anything on the ground, that does not bode well for Philip Rivers against the Chiefs' pass rush.

A running game also would keep the ball from a suddenly explosive Chiefs offense.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Chargers WR Keenan Allen vs. Chiefs CB Marcus Peters. Allen torched Peters and the Chiefs for six catches and 63 yards in last year's season opener before a torn ACL ended his season before halftime. Peters has emerged as one of the league's premier shutdown corners since their last matchup, which was marked by shouting and shoving from both talkative players. Allen caught nine passes for 100 yards against Miami last week. Peters leads the NFL with 14 interceptions since 2015.

--Chargers DE Joey Bosa vs. Chiefs offensive line. Bosa moves around but most of the pressure will fall on LT Eric Fisher and RT Mitchell Schwartz. The Chiefs can deploy a quick-passing game when facing a pressure defense, but QB Alex Smith shows more willingness this season to extend plays and take shots down field. He might not have the time in this game. The Chiefs are tied for 26th in the league with seven sacks allowed.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Chiefs S Eric Murray. He played just 64 defensive snaps as a rookie last season but finds himself thrust into a key role this year following the season-ending injury to All-Pro Eric Berry. Murray plays more coverage duty filling in for Berry, while S Daniel Sorensen handles playing in the box. The second-year Murray may have made the play of the game against the Eagles, preventing a touchdown after tight end Zach Ertz caught a deflected pass on the run for a 53-yard gain.

FAST FACTS: Chiefs QB Alex Smith has 619 passing yards, five TDs and no interceptions. His 134.1 passer rating ranks second in the NFL. In his past six games vs. the Chargers, he has thrown for 1,586 yards (264.3 per game), nine TDs and four INTs. ... Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt leads the NFL with 355 scrimmage yards, 229 rushing yards and five TDs through two games. He is the third player in league history to score from 50 yards in each of first two games. ... Chiefs LB Justin Houston has seven sacks in his past six games. In the past three meetings, he has five sacks, a forced fumble and an interception for a touchdown. ... Chargers QB Philip Rivers completed 31 of 39 passes for 331 yards and a TD last week. He has 52 games with 300 yards, third most among active players. ... Chargers TE Antonio Gates had a TD catch last week and has 112 career receiving TDs, most by a tight end in NFL history and sixth among all players.

PREDICTION: The Chargers have lost both games on failed field goals, but they might not be that close in this one.

OUR PICK: Chiefs, 30-20.

--Chris Cluff

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