Look for the San Diego Chargers to have a big day at home against the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday. I originally thought I would pick the Chiefs to WIN here in this bettors delight, (KC gets 15 points in this game, last I checked) but upon further review of this game, the Chargers should handle the Chiefs with few problems.
This game piqued my interest for many reasons:
1) Ron Rivera became the new defensive coordinator for the Chargers in the bye-week. How will this "4-3" guy adapt to the "3-4?" Rivera has stated that he will be aggressive by blitzing and taking calculating risks in certain situations. Shaun Phillips gets at least one (1) sack on Sunday. Cromartie and/or Jammer get one (1) pick (or great pick opportunity!) as well.
2) KC has been knocking on the door the past two weeks after a narrow loss away to the NY Jets in week 8 and a heartbreaking loss at home last week against the Bucs.
3) San Diego's high powered offense is arguably one of the best in the NFL. Philip Rivers has 19 touchdowns vs. only 6 interceptions.
4) KC's much talked about secondary has more than doubled it's INT total (7) for the season over the last two weeks, picking Favre three (3) times in week 8 and Garcia one (1) time in week 9. Also, KC is (+8) overall in giveaway/takeaways in relation to San Diego this season.
5) The emergence of Tyler Thigpen as a steadying force for the Kansas City Chiefs and lets not forget back up rookie running back, Jamaal Charles, who had 18 carries for 106 yards against a tough Buccaneer defense. Also, The Chargers are ranked DEAD LAST in passing defense.
6) The steady play of Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez, who each have three touchdowns apiece this season, both of them gaining between approximately 50-100 yards per week and providing solid targets for Chiefs QB, Tyler Thigpen.
**Interesting note, the last time the Chargers visited the Murph on September 30, 2007, a 30-16 Chiefs upset, Dwayne Bowe looked unstoppable, catching 8 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown. Also, The teams are tied 2-2 in their last four (4) meetings.
All this being said, one cannot overlook the fact that KC ranks DEAD LAST in the NFL in rushing defense. As San Diego's defense adjusts under Rivera's leadership, I look for Norv Turner to devise a bit more conservative, ball-control ground game strategy this Sunday at home. LT has had more time to rest during the bye-week and should be ready to go against the Chiefs. I also look for Darren Sproles to get about 5-7 carries. And we all know what Philip Rivers can do in the air and now with Chris Chambers looking healthy, Rivers should have no problem picking and choosing his spots against Kansas City's porous defense. Rivers is having a Pro Bowl season with 19 TD passes thrown against only 6 interceptions and an overall 107.8 quarterback rating.
I do see Kansas City covering in this game, with the final score being 28 - 17 Chargers. San Diego's defense, minus Shawne Merriman, will be looking to re-make a name for itself against this weaker opponent. I predict Rivera will call for outside pressure on Thigpen, allowing linebacker Shaun Phillips to attack the pocket in key situations. Also, DB's Cromartie and Jammer will probably be asked to split the field and be more aggressive in Rivera's new defensive scheme in order to stop the likes of Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez.
INJURY UPDATE: CHIEFS - RB Kolby Smith was carted off the field with a knee injury against the Buccaneers and will miss the rest of the season. Smith started at RB last week for the Chiefs. That means more of the burden will fall on rookie RB, Jamaal Charles this week. CHARGERS - Are pretty healthy, key players listed as PROBABLE: WR Chris Chambers still has been nursing an injured ankle, and Antonio Cromartie, last season's INT sensation, has an injured hip.
FINAL NOTE: San Diego finished 11-5 in 2007, before losing in the AFC championship to the New England Patriots. The Chargers are at 3-5 this season. Many pundits have stated that San Diego could very well be at 7 -1 this season with a better defensive effort. The Chargers are in a MUST WIN situation at home this Sunday against the Chiefs in order to keep there playoffs hopes alive. It gets very difficult for teams to make the playoffs once the six (6) game loss plateau has been broken with eight games left in the season. To San Diego's credit, this team reeled off six (6) straight wins to close out the 2007 season and two (2) additional wins in the playoffs before losing to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. A notorious "late starter," San Diego will begin its turnaround this week.