Five To Watch: Chiefs vs. Chargers

In order for the Chiefs to avoid falling to 0-3 they need to pull the biggest upset of the NFL season so far and beat the heavily favored Chargers on the road. Can the Chiefs turn their season around with just a single win? Here are five things that must happen.

1. Kendrick Lewis Steps Up

With the absence of Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry the Chiefs will lean on second-year safety Kendrick Lewis to be the quarterback of the secondary for the foreseeable future. Lewis, a fifth-round draft selection from 2010, was impressive at times his rookie season but seems to have hit a wall in his progression.

With only 10 total tackles and one pass deflection, Lewis is underachieving to the point he is getting outperformed by Sabby "Piscitelli. There is no denying Lewis needs to improve. He has the potential to lead this defense in Berry's absence but like the rest of this 2011 Chiefs defense, he has yet to step up. With Vincent Jackson going deep in San Diego, Lewis could not pick a better day to knock one out of the park.


2. Defensive Line Production

The Chiefs' defensive line is easily the most underachieving group during this already disappointing season. That's saying a lot considering the team's performance so far. The Chiefs defensive line as a whole has accumulated just 11 total tackles through two contests. Averaged out over the season, that comes out to 88 tackles. To give some perspective on these numbers, Dorsey finished the 2010 season with 69 tackles alone.

The struggles on the defensive line manifest in the team's overall sack numbers which are worse than ever. The Chiefs have just one sack on the season. If they stay on that pace they will break the record for fewest sacks in franchise history, breaking the record the 2008 Chiefs set with 10 sacks. If the Chiefs can't do better than what they have shown, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers will exploit Kansas City's defense possibly even worse than we have seen in the first two weeks.


2. Replace Jamaal Charles

It will be difficult for the Chiefs to replace arguably the NFL's best running back but as coaches always say you've got to go to war with what you've got. What the Chiefs have is an eclectic backfield with players who all bring a different element to the game that will make it difficult for opposing defenses to game plan for.

Thomas Jones is the most experienced of the group but has lost a step after taking a pounding for 12 NFL seasons. Taking some of that load will be fifth-year Chief Jackie Battle who, although he has been a solid special teams contributor, has shown flashes only in preseason. The Chiefs will also feature their version of Thunder and Lighting in Dexter McCluster (the Chiefs active leading rusher) and Le'Ron McClain who has mostly seen time at fullback. Although none of these players can beat the Chargers on their own like Charles could, collectively they will create some major challenges for the San Diego coaching staff.


3. Establishing Hali's Presence

For the Chiefs to avoid reliving the last two weeks, the key will be stopping Chargers All-Pro quarterback Phillip Rivers. Rivers has proven he can put up serious offensive numbers in the passing game but has also had mental breakdowns if frustrated.

The AFC's reigning sack champion is the Chiefs best shot at shaking up Rivers, but Tamba Hali has been hampered by an ankle injury all week. The good news is he was a full participant in practice and is listed as probable on the Chiefs injury report. Warpaint Illustrated caught up with Hali Friday after practice and he informed us there was no way he could be kept off the field Sunday against a divisional foe. Although that decision will ultimately be made by the Chiefs' coaching staff and trainers, Hali's desire says a lot about this team's mentality as the underdog this week.


4. Find Another Receiving Threat

The San Diego Chargers currently boast the third-best offense in the NFL with the bulk of that production coming through the air. If Kansas City expects to pull the upset this week their offense will have to throw the ball successfully. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, their passing offense has not shown the ability to keep up with the Chargers.

Although wide receiver Dwayne Bowe got going last week in Detroit, the Chiefs have not shown any other legitimate threats in their passing game. Steve Breaston was signed during the offseason to complement Bowe but to this point he has not been a factor. Outside of Breaston and Bowe the Chiefs have a ragtag receiver group consisting of journeymen Keary Colbert and Jerheme Urban. Unless one of these players step up, the Chiefs will likely fall behind the Chargers early.

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