WHEN THE CHIEFS PASS
The Chiefs had no answer for the Chargers' pass defense the last time these teams faced each other. Not only was Matt Cassel sacked five times, he played perhaps his worst game of the season, completing only 10 of 25 passes and throwing three interceptions. Perhaps most egregiously, Cassel missed several wide-open receivers, particularly when Kansas City had a chance to tighten the game in the third quarter.
Since, Cassel has improved, throwing four touchdowns against just one interception in his last three games. Will that carry over against the Chargers? If San Diego's games since are any indication, probably not. Outside a poor game against the Eagles, the Chargers shut down Oakland and Denver's passing games, and held Eli Manning in check. After a lousy start, Ron Rivera's defense seems to have found a pass rush, racking up 15 sacks in the last four games.
Shawne Merriman in particular has revitalized what started out as an off year, logging all four of his sacks over the last month. Branden Albert, who missed the first matchup with the Chargers, hasn't faced Merriman this season – can he handle the bull rush? Kansas City struggled to stop the Chargers' pass rush in Week 7.
The key matchup will be Chris Chambers, who has 249 yards and two touchdowns in just three games with the Chiefs, lining up against his old team. Chambers may be bitter over the fact San Diego released him and has something to prove, especially because San Diego frequently took him off the field in favor of younger receivers.
WHEN THE CHARGERS PASS
Philip Rivers remains as hot as ever and has thrown at least one touchdown pass in six consecutive games. When the Chargers visited Arrowhead, he hooked up with Vincent Jackson down the field all day long (a season-high 142 yards), and the Chiefs had no answer for it. What will happen four weeks later?
The Chiefs were toasted a week ago by Ben Roethlisberger and really haven't played much better against the pass in recent weeks, despite winning two games. Even the Oakland Raiders came within a dropped pass and a few more yards of beating Kansas City with their passing game. If the Chiefs start their two slow, un-athletic safeties – Jon McGraw and Mike Brown – there's little reason to believe Rivers and Jackson won't put on another aerial show.
McGraw and Brown also struggled to bring down San Diego's Darren Sproles in the open field in Week 7. It makes sense for the Chiefs to insert a quicker player like DaJuan Morgan against a team like San Diego, but after starting a game in Jacksonville, Morgan has not been given another opportunity. Mike Vrabel has not been ruled out at outside linebacker for the Chiefs after missing last week's game against Pittsburgh.
WHEN THE CHIEFS RUN
How much of a difference will Jamaal Charles make against San Diego? Larry Johnson, recently cut by Kansas City, received most of the work in Week 7, while Charles ran only four times. The Chiefs weren't effective running against the Chargers with either player, however, which was disappointing considering San Diego entered the game with one of the league's worst rushing defense.
San Diego has improved, if only to slightly above average, since then, as no back has gone over 100 yards. The Chargers did a nice job against New York's powerful ground game two weeks ago, holding Brandon Jacobs to just 67 yards. If the improvement is for real – and considering how much San Diego's defense has improved overall over the last month, it probably is – the Chiefs, even with Charles, may find it tough to create running room. Wade Smith will start at right guard again for Kansas City, as Andy Alleman misses his second consecutive game.
WHEN THE CHARGERS RUN
While LaDainian Tomlinson has managed to stay healthy after his early-season injury, and his carries have increased, his production has not. Tomlinson has still not managed to break the 100-yard mark and his longest run all season is only 36 yards, coming against the Chiefs in the first meeting. Since, his longest run is only 20 yards.
Of course, it doesn't help that the Chargers are still not a team that run blocks particularly well. Even the electrifying Darren Sproles has not broken a run longer than 21 yards this season, and he is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. San Diego's injury issues at center and right tackle don't help.
Even though Tomlinson busted out early against the Chiefs in Week 7, he was contained as the game went on. It was Sproles who Kansas City struggled to stop, as he gained 41 yards on just five carries. Knowing how lethal Sproles was against Kansas City, it wouldn't be shocking if Norv Turner made even more of an effort to get him the ball the second time around. Once again, it goes back to KC's liabilities at safety.
Jamaal Charles' 97-yard kickoff return kick-started Kansas City's win over the Steelers a week ago, and he broke off a 45-yard return against the Chargers in Week 7. The Chiefs, who have maintained their highly-ranked coverage units all season, managed to bottle up Darren Sproles in the first meeting.
The Chargers are riding high in the midst of a five-game winning streak, and need to keep winning to stay in first place in the AFC West with the Broncos hot on their tracks. It's unlikely they'll let a team they already thrashed get in their way. The Chiefs have renewed confidence after consecutive wins, have something to prove and may get a boost with Chris Chambers' return to San Diego.
The Chiefs won't lose by 30 points as they did in Week 7, but beating an improving Chargers team without Dwayne Bowe on the road is too tall a task. Especially if Mike Brown and Jon McGraw happen to encounter Darren Sproles again.
Chargers 31, Chiefs 17
The Matchups - Chiefs vs Chargers
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