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Both of these AFC West rivals need a win badly tonight.
Two divisional foes who have not won since September will clash on Thursday Night Football, when the San Diego Chargers host the Kansas City Chiefs at 8:20 p.m. EST on the NFL Network. The Chargers started the season 3-1 before blowing double-digit, second-half leads against New Orleans and Denver, and then losing 7-6 in Cleveland last Sunday. The Chiefs have struggled all season on the way to a 1-6 start, which includes a 37-20 home loss to the Lightning Bolts in Week 4. Amazingly, Kansas City has not led in regulation this year.
When the San Diego Chargers have the ball:
What has happened here? San Diego had played pretty well on offense with the exception of its Atlanta loss, but the Chargers have only scored six points in their last six quarters of football. A turnover-laden second half against the Broncos was followed up by a completely flat performance versus the Browns. Quarterback Philip Rivers obviously must play much better, and he should be able to get back on track against a Chiefs defense that has given up a ton points. Running back Ryan Mathews also needs to pick it up, as he does not have a carry over 20 yards on the season or a 100-yard rushing effort.
The Kansas City defense has some very talented players but has been very inconsistent this season. The Chiefs rank 18th in the NFL in total defense (giving up 348.7 yards per game), but they are 29th in the league in scoring (allowing 29.9 points per contest). A major issue for K.C. defenders has been getting pressure on opposing signal callers. The Chiefs have produced only 13 sacks and seven takeaways in seven games, and that will need to change against a San Diego club that has a penchant for turnovers.
When the Kansas City Chiefs have the ball:
The quarterback tandem of Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn has produced very meager results this season. Quinn suffered a blow to the head against the Raiders last week, so Cassel will be back as the starter tonight. He will look to favorite target Dwayne Bowe for a spark, while also trying to protect the ball. The Chiefs lead the league in turnovers, and that must improve quickly. Kansas City has had success running the ball at times, but Jamaal Charles has totaled only 44 rushing yards on 17 carries over the last two games.
The San Diego defense has been excellent against the run this year, ranking second in the league at 80 yards per game. However the Chargers are 21st in the NFL versus the pass, and those second-half lapses in the Saints and Broncos losses were killers. San Diego has struggled to generate a pass rush, totaling only 12 sacks this season. Charles and the K.C. running game will be the focal point tonight, as the Chargers look to make the Chiefs one-dimensional and create turnovers.
Both AFC West teams are in desperate need of a victory, and each coach — San Diego’s Norv Turner and Kansas City’s Romeo Crennel — is under major scrutiny in his respective city. The Chargers have struggled lately, but a strong run defense and Rivers should be able to turn things around at home against a flawed Chiefs squad. San Diego has dominated Kansas City at Qualcomm Stadium recently, and look for that to continue tonight.
Chargers 23 Chiefs 13
---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)