Pre-Snap Read: Chargers vs. Chiefs

After last weekends embarrassing 27-17 loss to the New York Giants the Chiefs have returned to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the NFL's most battle tested road team of 2005, the San Diego Chargers.

It was no fluke or accident when the San Diego Chargers went in to Indianapolis and put an end to the Colts perfect season. With a smothering defense and a high octane offense the Chargers are considered by many to be the leagues most balanced team.

Willie Roaf and Jason Dunn vs. Shawne Merriman and Luis Castillo - The most intriguing battle of the day will be the left side of the Chiefs offensive line against the right side of the Chargers defense. Though Willie Roaf and Jason Dunn are the best left tackle and blocking tight end in football they'll have their hands full San Diego's nasty front seven.

The Chargers move their defensive ends and outside linebackers from side to side creating a variety of combinations and looks. Their two most dangerous looks are when Luis Castillo and Shawne Merriman line up on the right side of the defense and when Merriman and Steve Foley line up side by side to overload one side of the defense. Trent Green, Casey Wiegmann, and Tony Richardson will need to pay close attention to these changes in the defense.

As the clear front runner for defensive rookie of the year Merriman looks more than human at times. In the Chargers first game against the Chiefs, Merriman beat Roaf badly on numerous occasions. If big Willie doesn't play his best game of the year Merriman could very well wind up beating the Chiefs by himself, he's that kind of game changing player.

Casey Wiegmann vs. Jamal Williams - The Chiefs have the most athletic center in the NFL with Casey Wiegmann but athleticism is not what the Chiefs need today, on this day they need power. In his last several meetings with large nose tackles Wiegmann has been soundly beaten and unfortunately a match up with Jamal Williams will likely mean more of the same.

Trent Green vs. Chargers Secondary - The weakest area of the Chargers defense is their secondary and Kansas City proved this in their first meeting. In a valiant second half comeback the Chiefs fell a mere eight points short as Green repeatedly victimized San Diego's secondary for 347 yards and two touchdowns.

Kansas City's ability to throw the ball downfield however will depend on their ability protect Trent Green. San Diego's five pass rushers are the real key to their pass defense.

Larry Johnson, Tony Gonzalez and Tony Richardson versus the Chargers Linebackers - The Chargers currently have the NFL's top run defense surrendering a mere 74.9 yards per game. Larry Johnson has faced the NFL's top rushing defense before however and as the Denver Broncos found out first hand Johnson is difficult to maintain of regardless of where you are ranked.

Tony Gonzalez will spend as much time blocking today as he does running routes. This is due to the great number of two tight end protections the Chiefs will need to run in order to combat San Diego's pass rush.

Tony Richardson will play an important role in today's game by not only lead blocking for Larry Johnson but protecting Trent Green on passing plays as well. Richardson's primary job will be locating Shawne Merriman to make sure he can't get a clean shot on Green or Johnson by disguising his intentions in the Chargers formations.

Bottom Line: - The strength of both teams exists on their offensive and defensive lines. If the Chiefs offensive line can weather the storm and handle the Chargers front seven without much help then Kansas City's offense stands a much better chance of putting up their usual numbers. The more players that have to be kept in for blocking results in less players available to be used as weapons down the field.

Chiefs Front Four vs. Chargers Offensive Line - Despite starting six different offensive lines this season the Chargers have managed to only allow 24 sacks. This leaves them tied for seventh fewest in the NFL and one week ago they put together their best performance only allowing one sack to speed rushing Indianapolis Colts.

Comparatively the Chiefs on have done a pitiful job the past couple of weeks against make shift offensive lines. For the most part there has been little to no pass rush and against the Giants they were flat out blown off of the ball.

If the Chiefs defensive line is unable to suck it up and play to the level they are capable of playing at then this game will just become an uglier repeat of the Giants game. You cannot expect to go to the playoffs when you're beaten by rag tag bunch of second and third string players.

Chiefs Linebackers vs. Antonio Gates and LaDainian Tomlinson - Remarkably enough LaDainian Tomlinson has not scored a touchdown in the Chargers last three games. In fact it has been almost a month since he scored his last touchdown which came against the Washington Redskins on November 27th. Tomlinson has at least one touchdown in nine of 14 games this season and 21 of his last 26 regular season games. If the Chiefs linebackers can go back to playing disciplined football and maintain their gaps they'll stand a much better chance of keeping Tomlinson's scoreless streak intact.

Antonio Gates is an easy subject to bring up because the Chiefs have no answer for him, at least not in the ranks of their safeties and linebackers. There is one option that might work however but this involves the cornerbacks. In obvious passing situations the Chiefs might be best served to go to a nickel defense and line up Dewayne Washington or Dexter McCleon in place of Eric Warfield thus allowing Warfield to man up on Gates. On normal down and distance, the Chiefs safeties must keep Gates in from of them at all costs. If they deviate from their coverage over the top we can count on seeing another colossal day out of Gates.

Chiefs secondary vs. Drew Brees - Drew Brees is scary enough as the NFL's seventh-leading passer and quarterback rating of 91.6.Then you throw in his protection plus all of the weapons around him and the reality of the uphill battle really starts to set in. What the Chiefs should be most concerned about however is Brees third down efficiency.

Over the past three weeks Kansas City has not been able to get the opposing offense off of the field. In Greg Robinson type fashion they consistently find a way to fail in the most crucial of situations. Things won't get any easier today as line up against Drew Brees who happens to be the league's third leading passer on third down conversions. So far in the 2005 season Brees has completed 77 of 119 passes for 890 yards and seven touchdowns for a third down rating of 99.8.

Bottom Line: - The Chiefs defense has imploded over the past two weeks with a lack of discipline and fundamentals. The players need to start trusting one another and allow each individual to be responsible for his own job. Should they fail to do so this game could quickly turn embarrassing.

2005 STATS AND NFL RANKINGS
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Total Offense - 379.5 (2nd)
Rush Offense - 145.4 (4th)
Pass Offense - 234.1 (8th)
Total Defense - 346.8 (28th)
Rush Defense - 103.8 (9th)
Pass Defense - 243.0 (31st)


SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Rush Offense - 135.8 (5th)
Pass Offense - 228.4 (10th)
Total Offense - 364.2 (6th)
Rush Defense - 74.9 (1st)
Pass Defense - 237.0 (28th)
Total Defense - 311.9 (15th)


GAME DAY INJURY REPORT
CHIEFS
TE Kris Wilson – Doubtful
LB Shawn Barber - hamstring – Questionable
DE Eric Hicks - shoulder – Questionable
WR Eddie Kennison - knee – Questionable
FS Jerome Woods - hamstring – Questionable
DT John Browning - knee – Probable
TE Jason Dunn - knee – Probable
LB Boomer Grigsby - abdomen – Probable
RB Larry Johnson - clavicle – Probable
FB Tony Richardson - illness – Probable
OG Brian Waters – illness – Probable
C Casey Wiegmann - ankle – Probable


SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
SS Terrence Kiel - ankle – Out
FS Bhawoh Jue - knee – Questionable
WR Eric Parker - foot – Questionable
RB LaDainian Tomlinson - chest – Questionable
LB Matt Wilhelm - shoulder – Questionable

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