WHEN THE CHIEFS PASS
Tyler Thigpen is coming off two good games for the Chiefs, and figures to have another against a poor San Diego pass defense that is giving up a league-worst 265 yards per game. Only one team has surrendered more touchdown passes than the Chargers, who are clearly struggling in Shawne Merriman's absence.
San Diego really only has one legitimate pass rusher without Merriman – Shaun Phillips, who leads the team with four sacks. While Phillips still gets pressure, San Diego's inconsistent rush really exposes a secondary that has never been among the league's elite. In addition, the Chargers' linebackers really struggle in zone coverage. Almost every single one of them is more suited at coming downhill in the running game.
The Chiefs racked up big yardage in the passing game against the Chargers last season with Tony Gonzalez and Dwayne Bowe, and there's no reason to think that won't happen again today. San Diego still doesn't have a defender who matches up well with Gonzalez. After back-to-back weeks of fairly competent pass blocking from KC's much-maligned offensive line, a repeat performance against an average Chargers' pass rush isn't out of the question.
Despite his critics, there's a good chance Thigpen continues to impress, because almost every other quarterback the Chargers have played this year has done just that. San Diego cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who suffered a hip injury early in the year, claims to be back to full health this week, but he has been burned so far this year quite a bit.
WHEN THE CHARGERS PASS
Philip Rivers has done nothing but reward the Chargers since they drafted him in 2004. Because San Diego's terrible defense continues to give up points week in and week out, Rivers has been forced to throw more and more, and he's racked up huge numbers, with 19 touchdown passes already. He leads the entire league in passer rating.
The Chargers are also protecting Rivers well after they struggled to do that occasionally a year ago. Even when there's pressure, however, Rivers finds the open receiver quickly and gets rid of the ball in a timely manner. Don't expect the Chiefs to generate much pressure against this San Diego offensive line, even if they blitz.
One concern for the Chiefs will be San Diego's huge receiver corps. Between Vincent Jackson (6-foot-5), Malcom Floyd (6-foot-5) and Antonio Gates (6-foot-4), Rivers has some huge targets who easily dwarf most members of the Kansas City secondary. Gates has struggled in the past against the Chiefs due to safety Jarrad Page, but he is questionable today with a groin injury.
In the past, KC defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has cooked up a scheme that has frustrated Rivers and San Diego quite easily, but without Jared Allen, and with injuries to Page, Derrick Johnson, Brandon Flowers, Turk McBride, Patrick Surtain and DaJuan Morgan, the Chiefs are extremely shorthanded on defense.
WHEN THE CHIEFS RUN
Shockingly, the Chiefs found success last week against a good run defense, the first time they've done that all year. However, KC's offense still hasn't gone on the road and done it, so they'll have to prove they can run the football once more, especially with Kolby Smith on the sideline.
The Chargers have been respectable against the run this year, giving up four yards per carry, but teams pass with ease against them so frequently, that statistic might be misleading. While San Diego still tackles well, their front seven isn't quite what it has been in years past.
Jamal Williams, the massive nose tackle who has played in the middle of San Diego's defense for years, looks old. His knees are still bothering him as they did a year ago, and he's nothing close to the force he once was against the run, but still may be a handful for Chiefs' center Rudy Niswanger, in his first year as a full-time starter.
Because the Chiefs will spread the Chargers out with their new offensive approach, if Niswanger can handle Williams, there should be running lanes in the middle for Jamaal Charles and Dantrell Savage. Charles will get the start for Kansas City.
WHEN THE CHARGERS RUN
Due to a lingering toe injury, LaDainian Tomlinson is averaging only 3.9 yards per carry this season. The injury has affected his ability to cut sharply, and at times he's lacked the extra burst in the open field that made him so dangerous in past years. As a result, he has only two 100-yard games.
However, Tomlinson looked almost back to form two weeks ago against the Saints in London, and with a bye week, he figures to be in great shape against a Chiefs defense that improved against the run last Sunday, but is still allowing a league-worst 5.4 yards per carry this season.
The Chargers, who struggled to block for the run early last year, are having no such problems this season. Tamba Hali proclaimed that Kansas City would stop the run this week, but they face a much more difficult challenge in Tomlinson today than Earnest Graham last Sunday.
The Chargers field a dangerous return man in Darren Sproles, who has already taken one kick back for a touchdown this year. Mike Scifres continues to punt well for San Diego and placekicker Nate Kaeding has missed only three field goals all season. The Chiefs will have Dustin Colquitt back this week.
The Chiefs should have some confidence they can play enough offense to keep pace with the Chargers after solid back-to-back performances against New York and Tampa Bay. San Diego needs to hold serve against a clearly inferior Chiefs team at home, however, or they risk falling two games behind the Denver Broncos. San Diego is coming off a bye week. Chargers head coach Norv Turner is 1-2 lifetime against Herm Edwards.
Tyler Thigpen will shock us all again, but the Chargers simply have too many weapons on offense for the defensively depleted Chiefs to contain.
Chargers 35, Chiefs 24
The Matchups - Chiefs vs Chargers
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