The AFC West has arguably been one of the most exciting divisions all year. The Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers have clearly shown they are among the elite teams in the AFC. This Thursday night showdown between these two juggernauts has the makings of a rivalry unlike no other. It kind of makes fans giddy knowing these teams will have to play each other twice a year. Meaning, lots and lots of battles between Chargers rookie safety Derwin James and Chiefs star receiver Tyreek Hill.
James is doing things at the safety position for the Chargers that hasn’t been done in years. It would be a travesty to not credit his marvelous play on the field with the impressive performance of the Chargers secondary in 2018. Kudos to the Bolts for getting this first round draft pick right.
James will have to take his game to the next level tonight against the Chiefs and more importantly defending Hill. The Chargers are entering this Week 14 matchup with the eighth best defense in the league, so James will be in extremely good company.
On the other side of the ball, the connection between Hill and quarterback Patrick Mahomes is simply dangerous. The Chiefs offense is currently ranked number one in the league. Hill has not only stamped himself as a certified threat in the NFL, but he has also been a torrid matchup for everyone. Unlike James, Hill was drafted in the fifth round of the 2016 draft with the Chiefs hoping he could overcome some of the off-field issues he had in college.
What a difference two years can make for a guy who is now considered one of the best players in the NFL. His impact alone in the AFC West has shifted the balance of power to the division-leading Chiefs. If a healthy Hill is on the field tonight versus the Chargers, best believe he will be involved.
The Week 1 game versus the Chiefs was the first loss of the Chargers season and proved to be a teachable moment for James. In that 38-28 defeat, James was credited with one sack and a total of three tackles. His assignments on that included checking the likes of Hill and running back Kareem Hunt. Most notably, Hill ended that game with seven receptions, 169 yards, and two touchdowns. Those stats alone were just a taste of what the Chiefs offense could do to the Chargers defense in their first matchup.
In all actuality, James wasn’t fully acclimated to the pros. There were still obvious signs of him learning while reacting to the fast pace of the NFL. Well, that was then, and this is now. Hill may have schooled the Chargers defense in their first meeting, but things have changed. Since then, James has transformed himself into a top-five safety, not to mention, potential Defensive Rookie of the Year. Based on their first meeting, the likelihood of Hill having a special day is probable. But, if there is anyone up for the challenge of limiting a player’s fantasy points, James has definitely proven he is ready for this assignment.
Thursday Night Showdown
The Chargers, to some extent, are in foreign territory. There are a lot of players on this Chargers roster that have never played for a potential divisional title. Based on the success of both teams and the similarity in how they conduct their winning business on the field, it is likely this AFC West showdown will reshuffle the AFC playoff seeding. To win this game, the Chargers will have to trust that their rookie safety has ascended to the next level. For James, limiting Hill in this second matchup of the year will prove to be one of the difference makers.