One of the most compelling games in the NFL this week is the showdown in the AFC West between the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs swept the season series in 2019 and have won 11 of the last 12 head-to-head meetings with the Chargers. This time around, Kansas City is favored by nine points on the road, with an over/under of 47.5 points.
The Chargers got some good fortune in Week 1 when the Bengals missed an easy field goal that could have forced overtime. Thanks to the miss, L.A. won an ugly 16-13 game on the road to begin the 2020 campaign. The Chargers have a lot to prove after last year’s 5-11 campaign and have a chance to show progress given their recent difficulty against the Chiefs.
Meanwhile, it’s business as usual for Andy Reid’s team. The Chiefs showed no semblance of a Super Bowl hangover in Week 1, taking care of the Texans 34-20. By halftime, they were up 17-7 and cruised to victory after coming out strong in the second half. The only reason to think things will be any different this week is the Chiefs might be tempted to look ahead to a Week 3 Monday night showdown with the Ravens in a battle of the two best teams in the AFC.
The Extra Dimension
The worst fears of the AFC West were realized in Week 1 when the Chiefs were even better offensively with the performance of running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The rookie out of LSU had 25 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown. The Kansas City offense has been unstoppable over the last two seasons without a workhorse running back, and now it appears the Chiefs have one.
Even though Patrick Mahomes didn’t complete a pass over 20 yards, the Chiefs had no trouble putting 34 points on the scoreboard. Mahomes had a rather pedestrian outing by his standards, yet Kansas City’s offense couldn’t be stopped.
The silver lining for the Chargers defense is they know what they’re up against this week. They also had a solid outing in Week 1, limiting the Bengals to 13 points and forcing two turnovers. In theory, Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa are good enough edge rushers to put some pressure on Mahomes and force him out of his comfort zone. But we all know that’s easier said than done.
The New Duo
With Melvin Gordon gone, rookie Joshua Kelley has stepped in as Austin Ekeler’s partner in the L.A. backfield. The duo combined for 144 yards on 31 carries against the Bengals, doing a lot of the heavy lifting for the offense. That could be a weakness the Chargers could exploit this week after David Johnson averaged seven yards per rush against the Kansas City defense in Week 1.
A strong run game keeps Mahomes off the field and keeps the clock moving. If the Chargers run the ball effectively, they’ve got a chance.
Of course, the Chargers are going to need more from Tyrod Taylor if they’re going to keep pace with Mahomes and company. Taylor has a capable trio of targets around him with Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, and Hunter Henry, not to mention Ekeler’s pass-catching skills. However, Taylor was just 16 of 30 for 208 yards against the Cincinnati defense. He missed some throws that he’ll have to make against the Chiefs, who had four sacks against the Texans and limited explosive plays.
Same Old Story
The Chargers had a few bright spots in Week 1, creating optimism for the future. But there’s no getting around the massive difference at quarterback between Taylor and Mahomes. The Los Angeles supporting cast isn’t nearly good enough to make up for that gap. The Chiefs have had little trouble with the Chargers in recent years, which isn’t going to change.
Bet on the Chiefs to cover the nine-point spread in Week 2.