Michael Lombardo: The Chiefs need a lot of help to make the playoffs (a win over the Chargers coupled with wins by the Browns and Jaguars). It seems unlikely, but as the Chargers showed last season, long-shots can pay off. Where is the mind-set of this Chiefs team? Do you sense this team is competing for a playoff spot, or is the general sense that opportunity was washed away in Pittsburgh?
Nick Athan: I don't think this team has really competed since they defeated the Seattle Seahawks back in November. Since then, they've lost four of five games (only defeating the lowly Oakland Raiders at home earlier this month). The slide has much to do with their inability to run the ball offensively and defend the run defensively.
On offense, the offensive line has digressed to sub-standard and might possess the worst starting five in the NFL today. The other side of the ball, while playing great in the secondary, has not been able to control the running game for the most part. Teams have found the book on the Chiefs on both sides of the ball and that's resulted in a multitude of losses.
Though the team is still in contention for a wild card spot, they don't seem to have the passion or energy at this point to really believe that chance is legitimate.
ML: If the Chiefs fail to make the playoffs, where does the bulk of the blame fall?
NA: The blame for the Chiefs failures rests squarely on head coach Andy Reid and GM John Dorsey. They both ignored glaring weaknesses in the offseason along the offensive line, as well as at wide receiver, inside linebacker and in the secondary. Granted, they were limited in cap space, but they didn't even address most of those needs in the draft.
Reid, to his credit, has not had the horses to ride an efficient offense all season long, but his refusal to use All Pro running back Jamaal Charles more than he has done to close out the season will go down as a big blunder. Reid must change his approach in the offseason and that includes ridding the coaching staff of his "yes men."
As far as Dorsey, he needs to be more aggressive in landing top-tier free agents, and with 11 draft picks, must find starters in Rounds 1-4 if he plans on making it another year as the Chiefs general manager.
ML: What is the weather forecast for this weekend on how will impact the game?
NA: It's been dark and dreary in Kansas City for nearly three weeks, but it's supposed to be sunny with the temperatures in the low 30's. In other words, it should be a nice winter day in the Midwest. I don't think that favors either team. The Chiefs have played well at home this year, losing just two games, but the Chargers are an all-weather team, so I don't think the cold weather conditions will be much of a factor for them.
ML: The Chargers-Chiefs rivalry is among the most competitive in all sports, as these games seem to always go down to the wire. Do you see another close game in Week 17? If so, which team has the edge if things are tight in the final minutes?
NA: Actually, I think the Chargers have such an edge in this match-up that they should have their way with Kansas City on both sides of the ball. Though Kansas City upset the Chargers earlier in the season on their turf, the Chiefs played a near flawless game that Sunday. Right now, this football team has lost its swagger and identity, so that gives San Diego the clear edge.
Also, when you factor in the fact San Diego can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Kansas City, they would appear to be the team that is going to walk out of Arrowhead on Sunday with a victory and the final AFC postseason ticket.
ML: What is the most important thing for the Chiefs to accomplish on Sunday?
NA: I guess that would be to save face. If the Chiefs win this game and miss the playoffs, they'll look back at games against Tennessee, Oakland, Denver, San Francisco and Arizona knowing that a single play in their favor would have won any of those games. The missed opportunities in those five losses will sting knowing a win in any of those games would have given them a playoff spot for the second consecutive year.
ML: Bonus: Which team wins? And what's your prediction for the final score and the final AFC playoff seedings?
NA: As I mentioned, this team has zero identity and for them to defeat the Chargers twice this season would be an accomplishment, but it would cost the Chiefs some draft spots and I think that's far more valuable than winning and sitting home than going one-and-done in the postseason -- should the unlikely scenario play out with a Chiefs win, Texans loss and Ravens loss -- catapulting them into the playoffs.
Final Score: Chargers 41, Chiefs 17
AFC Playoff Seedings
- 1. New England Patriots
- 2. Denver Broncos
- 3. Pittsburgh Steelers
- 4. Indianapolis Colts
- 5. Cincinnati Bengals
- 6. San Diego Chargers
Talk all about the Bolts-Chiefs game in the Chargers boards or the Chiefs boards.
You can read more of Nick Athan's work on WarpaintIllustrated.com, in Warpaint Illustrated the magazine or by following him on Twitter: @ChiefsInsider.