Coming off their first loss of the season against their AFC West rival Broncos, the Kansas City Chiefs find themselves in an unfamiliar position; they have a losing streak.
While another huge matchup with the Denver Broncos looms in Week 13, coach Andy Reid's team will first try to bounce back on Sunday as they host another AFC West rival, the San Diego Chargers.
The Chargers (4-6) have even more serious problems to deal with. They will travel to Arrowhead Stadium with the foul stench of a three-game losing streak clinging to them.
This is a must-win game for a team that has all but eroded its chances of making the postseason. A divisional win on the road would go a long way to restoring some sort of confidence in San Diego, but it is going to be a tough ask against a high-flying Chiefs team in one of the most hostile environments in the NFL.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at three bold predictions for this AFC West matchup:
Danny Woodhead will have more all-purpose yards than Jamaal Charles
This is more a gut feeling than anything logical.
Jamaal Charles is averaging 118 all-purpose yards per game, and has the third most all-purpose yards in the entire NFL with 1,186. He is a legitimate MVP candidate and the lifeblood of the Chiefs’ offense. The San Diego defense he is facing is about as leaky as a pair of Crocs, ranking 16th against the run, 27th against the pass and 27th overall.
Danny Woodhead can’t even compare to those numbers. He has only 772 all-purpose yards and hasn’t topped 100 yards in a game all season.
But I just feel like this is going to happen anyway. The Chargers will likely look to get Woodhead involved early and often, alleviating the Chiefs’ dynamic pass rush with screens and draw plays. He will need to turn those opportunities into a fistful of yards, but he should at least see enough touches to make outgaining Charles a possibility. The diminutive running back has been playing well all season. He has the speed to break a big play at any time, but has yet to make more than 26 yards on a play all season.
He’s due, basically.
It may seem like a tall order against the highly-rated Kansas City defense, but while the Chiefs have been very stingy in the red zone (giving up only 13.8 points per game), they certainly concede their fair share of yards on the ground. The unit ranks a lowly 20th in rushing defense, giving up an average of 117 rushing yards per game.
Knowing this, it is likely that head coach Mike McCoy’s game plan features a prominent ground attack, and Woodhead is going to be a big part of it. It will take a big effort and likely a poor performance from fellow running back Ryan Mathews for Woodhead to get it done, but don’t sleep on him. This might just happen.
The Chiefs will fail to record a sack for the second straight game
Philip Rivers has been sacked in every game this season, and has taken seven sacks in his last two outings alone. Starting left tackle King Dunlap still isn’t practicing after a neck injury, so it is expected that rookie right tackle DJ Fluker will make the switch to start at left tackle for the second straight week.
Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs have the second most sacks in the league at this point (36). Outside linebacker duo Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are the best pass rushing duo in the NFL, combining for 20 of the team’s 36 sacks.
It doesn’t bode well.
Luckily for the Chargers, however, all is not as bad as it seems. The Chiefs' pass rush has slowed dramatically in recent weeks. In their last three outings, the Chiefs defence has only managed to sack the quarterback one time -- in their first seven games, they recorded 35 sacks.
What’s more, this Chargers' offensive line has still conceded only 19 sacks on the year, the fourth best rank in the NFL. DJ Fluker earned rookie of the week honors back in Week 7 after a fantastic performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he looked solid at left tackle a week ago.
Having given up seven sacks in the last two games, and coming up against a team with such ferocious pass rushers, Mike McCoy and his staff will desperately focus on stopping the Chiefs' pass rush this week. The blueprint for stopping them is there from the Chiefs’ last three games, and this Chargers line can block when they get the scheme right.
Add to that the Chargers’ propensity for keeping Woodhead involved in the short passing game to alleviate the pass rush, and don’t be surprised if the Chiefs' defense comes up dry for the third straight week.
The San Diego Chargers will win at Arrowhead
If the Chargers' offensive line can give Rivers a clean pocket (and I’ve just predicted that they will), he can beat this Chiefs’ defense. Rivers is throwing as well as anybody in football at the moment, and is the only quarterback in the league with a completion percentage above 70 (71 percent).
Combine Rivers’ accuracy in the pass game with a productive run game from Danny Woodhead and Ryan Mathews, and what you come up with is an offensive performance that the most unambitious, check-down-heavy offense in the league will not be able to match, even on their home turf and even against the Chargers’ beaten-up defense.
It’s not going to be a blowout, but I think the Chargers can march into Arrowhead and pull off the upset. Final score: San Diego 24, Kansas City 21.