One extended losing streak will come to an end on Thursday night as the Kansas City Chiefs (1-6) face off with the division rival San Diego Chargers (3-4). The last time either of these teams won was when the Chargers beat the Chiefs in Week 4.
To say it's been a disappointing first half for the Chiefs would be an understatement. They were a popular sleeper pick after showing signs of life at the end of last season, but there have been massive breakdowns in just about every area.
The Chargers actually got off to a great start, winning three of their first four games. Things have fallen apart since that point, however, and now head coach Norv Turner is feeling the heat. If they don't turn it around quickly, the Denver Broncos are going to run away with the AFC West.
Let's take a look at all the key information for Thursday Night Football along with some players to watch and a prediction for which team will pick up the victory.
Where: Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego
When: Thursday, Nov. 1 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Watch: NFL Network
Listen: KCFX 101.1 FM (Kansas City) or KIOZ 105.3 FM (San Diego)
Live Stream: NFL.com
Betting Line: Chargers -8.5 (Vegas Insider)
Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
Chargers: Eddie Royal (questionable, hamstring), Chris Carr (questionable, quadriceps), Takeo Spikes (probable, arm), Jared Gaither (probable, groin) and Nick Hardwick (probable, abdomen)
What's at Stake?
For Kansas City, it's pretty much the team's last chance to make a stand. The Chiefs' chances of making a run into the playoff race are already slim, but another loss would likely be the final nail in their postseason coffin, even in the parity-driven AFC.
The Chargers have a little bit more on the line. Despite their struggles, they are still just one game behind the Broncos in the division and have a pretty favorable schedule from this point forward. But they have to start taking advantage of games like this one.
San Diego let a winnable game slip through its fingers last week against the Cleveland Browns. If the team doesn't bounce right back to defeat the Chiefs, its playoff hopes will quickly begin to fade as well. Turner must have his team ready to roll on Thursday.
Fantasy Player to Watch: Ryan Mathews
It's been a frustrating season for Mathews fantasy owners so far. He missed the first two games due to injury and in his first game back he lost a fumble, causing the coaching staff to limit his workload. He still hasn't rushed for 100 yards in a game and has just one touchdown.
Yet, his talent is obvious and that's why owners should continue stick with him moving forward. He's one of the most dynamic running backs in the league when healthy, and can contribute both on the ground and in the passing game.
He should be in line for a big game against a Chiefs defense that's allowing 126 yards per game on the ground. Expect Mathews to break the 100-yard barrier for the first time en route to 18 fantasy points, rewarding owners for sticking with him.
What They're Saying
The status of Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn remains up in the air, but head coach Romeo Crennel is hopeful he will be cleared to start, according to Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star.
"That’s all we’ve got," Crennel said. "All of 'em are going to have to play with one practice. (Quarterback) is a critical position but if the doctors say he’s healthy, why can’t he play with one practice?"
While the Chargers have clearly struggled over the past month, San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Nick Canepa has taken his criticism a step further, calling them the worst team in the league.
That’s correct. If you didn’t hear me, turn up the volume. The Chargers are the worst team in the NFL. Over the past four weeks—including the bye—they’ve given me no reason to think otherwise. They stink. And if Norv or anybody else in that organization doesn’t think so, well, they have nasal problems.
Chiefs Key Player: Jamaal Charles
Last week, Charles touched the ball eight times in a 10-point loss to the Oakland Raiders. That can't happen. The star running back is, by far, the team's most explosive playmaker and he needs to get a lot more touches than that.
The Texas product has gained 449 total yards in the two games this season where he has received more than 20 touches. When a player is capable of putting up those type of numbers, not giving him the ball early and often is insane.
Even if Charles is struggling, like he was against the Raiders, Kansas City must keep feeding him the ball because he's proven he will find ways to make plays. Hopefully the coaching staff learned a lesson from last week's loss.
Chargers Key Player: Shaun Phillips
Regardless if it's Quinn or Matt Cassel under center for the Chiefs, the Chargers have to find a way to get consistent pressure on the quarterback. They rank near the bottom of the league with just 12 sacks, and Phillips has five of them.
The 31-year-old outside linebacker has already surpassed his sack total from last season, flashing the type of ability that has allowed him to go over 10 sacks twice in his career. The Chargers can't afford for his play to fall off again because nobody else is stepping up.
Kansas City's offensive line is allowing just over two sacks per game, giving Phillips a chance to make a major impact on Thursday night. How he performs could be the difference between winning and losing for the Chargers.
Chargers 21, Chiefs 20