Kansas City can forget about easing into the season. They also might want to write a strongly worded letter to the NFL schedule makers. After a season of changes, the Chiefs have to face tough AFC West rival Los Angeles to begin the Patrick Mahomes-era.
Kansas City has owned the Chargers in recent seasons, winning their last eight meetings. With pretty much a rookie under center for the Chiefs, it’s a safe bet that Los Angeles is looking to extract some revenge.
These are the key match-ups to watch for as Andy Reid‘s squad tries to steal a divisional road win.
Kansas City catches a break with Joey Bosa missing the game with a foot injury. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz’s day certainly got a lot easier with Isaac Rochell subbing in for Bosa and his 12.5 sacks.
That puts all eyes on Fisher as he tries to keep Ingram from destroying his second-year quarterback. The defensive end collected four of his 10.5 sacks last season against Kansas City — and that was with risk-averse Alex Smith under center.
The Chiefs can’t afford to have Mahomes making poor decisions because Ingram is getting to him all day. Fisher, with help, needs to give his young signal caller a chance to get the ball down field.
Chiefs Defensive Backfield vs. Keenan Allen
In two wins last season, Kansas City held Allen to a fairly pedestrian 10 catches and 115 yards. That was with Marcus Peters in the fold. His replacement, Kendall Fuller, is certainly capable, but the Chargers star receiver requires a collective effort.
Los Angeles offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt doesn’t shy away from moving Allen, who’s comfortable both inside and outside, around. Fuller will have his chances, but so will his counterpart Steven Nelson and slot corner Orlando Scandrick.
The responsibility doesn’t lie strictly with the corners. With Eric Berry looking unlikely to play, safeties Ron Parker, who’s been back in KC for all of a week, and Eric Murray will have to help keep Philip Rivers from just continuously moving the chains with throws to Allen between the numbers.
Williams, the Chargers’ starting cornerback on the left side, has battled an ankle injury for several weeks now. Fellow corner Casey Hayward has dealt with a hamstring issue for the last couple of weeks as well.
Know who hobbled defensive backs really don’t want to line up against? Hill is fast enough to make a cornerback look silly even when they’re at full strength.
When healthy, Williams, Hayward, and slot corner Desmond King are solid and smart enough to bait a young quarterback into a bad throw. But are the outside corners too banged up to keep up with Hill when he turns the jets on?
The pass rush will probably be Williams’ best friend since Mahomes can’t unleash a long strike to his speedy wideout if he doesn’t have time to set his feet. If he gets that time and can find Hill streaking down the sideline, even once, that could go a long way towards beating the Chargers for a ninth straight time.