Behind Enemy Lines: Bolts-Chiefs II

The Chargers started their quest for a fifth straight AFC West title in Kansas City, where the Chiefs got the win in Week 1. That quest could come to an end in Week 14 courtesy those very same Chiefs.'s Michael Lombardo and Nick Athan dive into the pre-game analysis in this exclusive Q&A.

ML: Kansas City has a chance to eliminate San Diego from the AFC West race. Do you think that incentive will make the Chiefs extra motivated or potentially tight?

NA: Definitely motivated. Add to that the fact their leader, QB Matt Cassel, isn't likely to play thanks to the emergency surgery on Wednesday to remove his appendix. My sense is the Chiefs are going to be in a fighting mood.

The Chiefs are well aware of the fact that many around the NFL still believe the Chargers are the team to beat in this division. I don't think that's the case. Even if San Diego wins Sunday, they're still a game behind the Chiefs. However, my sense of the locker room is that the players know all too well what's at stake on Sunday.

ML: If the Chiefs pull out the win, it would be just their third road victory of the season. Why has Kansas City struggled so much away from home?

NA: They struggled early because, quite frankly, they just didn't know how to win games away from the friendly confines of Arrowhead Stadium. After winning their first road game at Cleveland, they had chances to win their next three. They had the Colts, Texans and Raiders on the ropes in the fourth quarter but couldn't finish.

Two weeks ago at Seattle, a place the Chargers failed to produce a victory earlier this year, Kansas City put up 21 fourth-quarter points to put the game away. That game was monumental for their confidence. They won't be in awe of being on the road this week, especially when you consider there will be a lot of Chiefs fans in the stands on Sunday in San Diego.

RB Thomas Jones
Elaine Thompson/AP
ML: Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles lead the league's No. 1 rushing offense against a defense that gave up 251 total net rushing yards last week. Do you expect Todd Haley to ride those two all game long, or will he open things up?

NA: The Raiders gave the Chiefs a perfect blueprint in how to defeat the Chargers. They are going to pound the ball to the left, the right and up the middle until San Diego can show they can stop their efficient running game. Not only will Charles and Jones be featured, but also they'll see a steady diet of Dexter McCluster.

If the Chargers stack the box with eight or nine defenders, backup QB Brodie Croyle has the mobility to move out of the pocket and an accurate arm to complete passes down the field.

ML: In the first meeting, Romeo Crennel's scheme revolved around taking away Antonio Gates. With Gates now hobbled by a torn planter fascia and playing less than half of the snaps, how will that scheme change, if at all?

NA: The Chiefs still fear Gates but I don't think they're all too concerned with the rest of the Chargers' pass catchers. In fact, I'll argue the Broncos' receiving group is vastly superior to the injury-riddled group that will line up on Sunday against the Chiefs.

Last week, the Chiefs held the NFL's top receiver, Brandon Lloyd, to a season-low three catches. The Chiefs' corners will press on the outside and with the Chargers' rushing game struggling, expect a steady pass rush on QB Philip Rivers.

ML: Fill in the blank: If the Chiefs __________, they will win the game.

NA: The Chiefs will win this game if they rush the ball 45 times and can control time of possession two-to-one. If the Chiefs' front seven can hit Rivers in the mouth like they did back in Week 1, he'll turn the ball over. If not, well since you didn't ask, I won't offer my take on that.

ML: Chargers fans are obviously hoping San Diego wins this game and that Kansas City loses at least one of its final three games. Of those three (at St. Louis, vs. Tennessee, vs. Oakland), which one has the best odds of ending in a Chiefs loss?

NA: I'd say the game at St. Louis would be the most likely. However, there are going to be nearly 25,000 Chiefs fans at that game, so in essence it won't be such a hostile environment for Kansas City to face in a game that could lock up the AFC West.

To read the first part of this series, where Athan asks Lombardo six questions about the Chargers, click here.

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