Chargers face a reality check from visiting Chiefs
Well, it was pretty obvious from what we saw in Week 1 one that the Super Bowl champions do not intend on resting on their laurels. The Kansas City Chiefs put on another offensive clinic in their 34-20 win over the Houston Texans in the "Thursday Night Football" season opener. Patrick Mahomes was back to doing things that a mere mortal quarterback isn't supposed to be able to do.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Chargers became a beneficiary of the Curse of the Bungles. Yes, we all saw it. Cincinnati rookie sensation Joe Burrow led his team down the field like a seven-year veteran to what looked like was going to be a game-winning drive. Then, once stalled, the Bengals turned to their kicker to send the game into overtime. And as we all know, the golden rule is to NEVER leave the fate of your team on the foot of a kicker. Especially one that strains his calf during the attempted chip shot, causing the ball to sail wide right. Boom, Chargers win 16-13.
Will the Chargers be so lucky again this week against the mighty Chiefs? Hmmm, not likely. But let's look at the keys anyway.
Kansas City at Los Angeles Chargers
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 20 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Chiefs -8.5
Three Things to Watch
1. The similarities and the differences
At first blush, these two teams looked pretty similar on the stat sheet from Week 1. The Chiefs ran for 166 yards, passed for 203 and totaled 369 in the win over the Texans. Meanwhile, the Chargers ran for 155 yards, passed for 207 and totaled 362 in their 16-13 escape at Cincinnati. But that is where the similarities end. Against J.J. Watt and the boys, the Chiefs built up a commanding 24-7 lead by holding onto the ball for 23:17 of the game's first 34 minutes of play. Meanwhile, the Chargers scored just 16 points and had two occasions where they were "goal to go" against the Bengals and settled for field goals, which is what helped make it such a white-knuckler of a finish.
Tyrod Taylor, ending the 224 consecutive starts by Philip Rivers, was making his first start since September 2018, and his rust showed at times. Patrick Mahomes and Taylor are both dual-threat QBs, but Mahomes is on another level, throwing from more arm slots than a submariner pitcher and looking unshakably comfortable. And to be honest, TT had some hither-and-yon moments against what is ostensibly a poor defensive team in the Bengals. I mean, you saw what Cleveland did to them on Thursday night, right?
2. Ground and pound
Probably the biggest headline from Kansas City's offensive game against the Texans was the emergence of rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who busted out for 138 yards on 25 carries in his first NFL game. Considering their leading rusher a year ago was Damien Williams, who topped out at a wimpy 498 yards, that's big news. Also, huge props to Kelechi Osemele, who took over at left guard for the opting-out Laurent Duvenay-Tardiff and provided a bunch of push and attitude for the running game. The Chargers seemed to find their legs on the ground as well, making the running game a priority. Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley were uber-effective and combined for 144 yards. That might not sound like much but consider that the Chargers were 28th in rushing in the NFL a year ago, so it's good to see the running backs become a point of emphasis.
3. Was the Chargers' defense for real?
Again, take all of this with a sizable grain of salt since they were facing the punchless Bengals and a rookie quarterback in his first game, but the Chargers held Cincy to 295 yards. And before the final two drives of the game, the Orange & Black had amassed just 175 yards in three and a half quarters. But on the flip side, the Chargers did benefit from Burrow missing some wide open receivers and a case of the dropsies from time to time, so the pass defense is still a big question mark. Also, starting linebacker Drue Tranquill had an unfortunate leg injury and is out for the foreseeable future. The defensive line of Joey Bosa, Linval Joseph, Justin Jones and Melvin Ingram will really have to make a massive step up and stay disciplined vs. Mahomes and company.
I'm not gonna lie. I don't see how the Chargers are going to put the clamps on that potent Chiefs offense. Patrick Mahomes is coming to Tinseltown and will be ready for his Hollywood close-up. And keep in mind the Lightning Bolts are still a little wobbly trying to figure out their all-new offense behind Taylor, which includes developing a completely new identity. The next time these two teams face each other will be on Jan. 3 and I'm sure it will be a better game. Especially since Kansas City will have clinched a playoff spot and may not care.
Hey, the most impressive part is that I made it through this whole preview without calling the Chargers "San Diego" one time.
Prediction: Chiefs 35, Chargers 10
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.