The Chargers will be opening up their 16-game season in Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chargers come into the season with a lot of faces gone from the team and some new faces taking their place. They will be missing a few players that are still a part of the Chargers organization such as Vincent Jackson, Marcus McNeil, and most likely, Shawne Merriman won't be playing. Jackson and McNeil are currently holding out and Merriman is doubtful with an Achilles injury.
The Chargers still possess a deadly passing game despite the absence of Vincent Jackson. Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates are definitely the best QB-TE passing combo in the NFL. The Chargers have other wide outs besides Vincent Jackson, but none with the kind of height he has.
Malcolm Floyd should be the No. 1 wide receiver option for the game and Patrick Crayton, the Chargers' recently acquired wide receiver, will help fill the void. Legedu Naanee will be the slot receiver and he should be an impact player. Last season, he made some key catches when he was called on and he performed when asked. When a linebacker gets the assignment to guard Naanee, expect Naanee to get a reception.
The main player the people are looking forward to watching is definitely Ryan Mathews, and for good reason. Mathews is a rookie RB out of Fresno State. He was the first-round draft selection for the Chargers and there is a lot of hype surrounding the kid.
He shows flashes of LaDainian Tomlinson's greatness and has a very similar style of play. It should be interesting to see how many carries he gets and how well he uses them. I expect to see a good number of people to hop on the Ryan Mathews bandwagon after the Monday night game, which is being nationally televised.
The Chiefs don't have that great of a run defense but it is a decent developing-run defense. They have names like Tamba Hali and Mike Vrabel that will be forces that Mathews will have to watch out for.
A key player for the Chargers is definitely going to be Larry English. He will most likely be the replacement for Merriman and he needs to step up big. He was the first-round pick in 2009 and has yet to contribute much to the team. Word from the coaching staff is that he a good player who is ready to step in and he performed well in training camp.
A concern for me, and probably the Chargers' staff, is going to be the new nose tackle, Antonio Garay, who is slated to start in the middle of the D-line. He sure isn't Jamal Williams and it will be interesting to see his movement off the ball and how many stops he can make on inside runs. I highly doubt that he will get to the QB but that would be great to see.
The one section of the Chargers' defense that I have faith in performing well is the secondary. Matt Cassel had a weak season last year and is known sometimes to be an erratic thrower. The defensive backs must take advantage of any bad throws Cassel makes.
The Chargers have a new second cornerback, a man by the name of Antoine Cason who most people should know about by now. In my opinion, he is a better player than Cromartie now which is why it was a smart decision to let Cromartie go.
For the majority of the game, Cason should match up with his former San Diego teammate, Chris Chambers. Cason definitely has the advantage on the worn-out Chambers and should be able to limit his touches. If Cason plays well on Chambers, his confidence is going to rise and it will make it a much easier task for him to guard some of the much better No. 2 wide receivers on different teams.
The Chargers do have a tough task going into Arrowhead Field, which is a tough place to play. They will need to stop the running back tandem of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones. Charles had a very good season last year and the Chargers better hope that his touches are limited considering the pretty weak run defense they have coming into this season.
Stopping the run will definitely be a big challenge for the Chargers but they can pull out the win if they shut down the run and flourish on offense as expected.
Prediction: Chargers—27, Chiefs—17