Behind Enemy Lines: Chargers v. Chiefs, p. II

Will Brandon Flowers make the Chiefs regret letting him go? Will Philip Rivers continue to torment KC's secondary? Can the Chargers pry the AFC West title from the Broncos? Our team experts, Michael Lombardo of SDBoltReport.com and Nick Athan of Warpaint Illustrated, discuss these and other questions in this Behind Enemy Lines feature.

To read Part I of this series, where we talk in-depth about Kansas City's running game, Andy Reid's coaching performance and much more, click here.

Nick Athan: It's clear Philip Rivers is the heart and soul of the San Diego Chargers. His play on the field and leadership on the sidelines has me believing he's the best quarterback in the NFL right now. In your eyes, is he an elite quarterback?

Michael Lombardo: Yes, Rivers is without a doubt an elite quarterback and deserves to be mentioned in that top tier with Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. Through the first six weeks of the season, Rivers is playing better than any other quarterback in the league, including that Big Four.

Rivers has posted a passer rating of 120 or better in five straight games, the longest such streak in NFL history. He leads the league in completion percentage (69.3) and yards per attempt (8.8). He is also spreading the ball around as well as anybody; each of his top four targets already has at least 17 receptions and 296 yards this season.

The next two weeks against the Chiefs and Broncos will be major tests. If Rivers shines in those games, his MVP campaign will really begin to pick up steam.

NA: There wasn't much fanfare in Kansas City when the team released CB Brandon Flowers. However, before his injury on Sunday against the Raiders, he was playing at a high level. What has he brought to the Chargers?

ML: Flowers’ signing was a major score for the Chargers. He instantly became the second biggest playmaker in San Diego’s secondary, behind only Eric Weddle. His addition has been more helpful than the Chargers could have even anticipated, as the team’s other top cornerbacks -- Shareece Wright (knee) and Jason Verrett (hamstring) -- have missed time due to injuries.

Flowers leads the Chargers in interceptions (two) and pass breakups (seven). He is dealing with a groin injury, as you mentioned, and is questionable for Sunday. He will do everything in his power to play, as he has gone on record about how excited he is for the opportunity to face his former team, but the Chargers won’t allow him to risk his long-term health. Now, if Flowers and Wright are both unavailable, San Diego is in trouble.

NA: Last weekend the Chargers defense let a wet-behind-the-ears quarterback beat them like a drum in the passing department. What did Derek Carr do that confused the Chargers secondary?

ML: The problem wasn’t confusion; it was the lack of a pass rush. Carr dropped back 34 times and was never hit, let alone sacked. San Diego’s front seven is banged up (the absences of Melvin Ingram and Manti Te’o are glaring) but the guys who are in there need to do a better job of winning their one-on-one battles. Four players in particular need to apply some heat on Alex Smith: Corey Liuget, Kendall Reyes, Dwight Freeney and Jeremiah Attaochu.

The other problem the Chargers encountered in Oakland was the inability to get off the field on third down. The Raiders converted 8-of-13 attempts on third down (61 percent). If the Chiefs are that efficient on third down, the Chargers are looking at a loss.

NA: Lost in the shuffle of the Chargers’ fast start might have something to do with the fact they're knocking heads with the Denver Broncos for the division crown. Do you think the Chargers’ shortcomings, whatever they might be, will prevent them from winning the AFC West?

ML: The one thing that makes San Diego underdogs in the AFC West is injuries. Every team is dealing with injuries, but what the Chargers have been up against borders on absurd. I’ve already mentioned some of the injuries on defense. On offense, San Diego has been forced to go through four different running backs and three different centers.

If San Diego can get some of its key players back -- Ryan Mathews and Ingram, in particular -- it should be able to challenge Denver. The real key will be the two head-to-head meetings between the Chargers and Broncos. San Diego must win at least one of those if it hopes to take the division, with the first opportunity coming in two weeks in Denver.

NA: There has been some talk recently that the NFL wants a pair of teams in Los Angeles. Just curious as to your thoughts about the Chargers possibly relocated to LA. Would it be a wise move if they decided to part ways with San Diego?

ML: The Chargers remain committed to San Diego and the city has shown a desire to build the team a new stadium. However, negotiations have dragged on for years and it may be “piss or get off the pot” time. If the Chargers do pack up and leave, Los Angeles is obviously where they would go. The Chargers franchise started in Los Angeles in 1960 and the short move 90 miles to the north would allow the team to keep a lot of it’s Southern California fans.

The NFL has been leveraging the Los Angeles market for years to pressure teams to build new stadiums. It has been an effective tool, but eventually some team is going to take the bait. I think a Raiders return is most likely, but the Chargers are certainly on the short list of candidates.



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Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com team. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 18 years and covered the team since '03. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.


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