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Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Diego Chargers Preview and Prediction

Alex Smith

Alex Smith

The upstart Kansas City Chiefs head to San Diego to take on the Chargers this Sunday in an AFC West contest that could put the Chiefs into the wild card conversation in the conference.

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Kansas City (4-5) is coming off a big win in Denver where Peyton Manning handed them more interceptions than made completions. Since losing five in a row, the Chiefs have now won three straight and are in eighth place in the conference, but if the Broncos fade without Manning, the Chiefs could make a push for the division crown. With two games each against the Raiders and Chargers still left, Kansas City's fate is still very much in their own hands.

Few teams have been hit harder with injuries than the San Diego Chargers and their 2-7 record reflects that, but they have still managed to throw for more passing yards than anyone else in the NFL. Four of their seven losses have been by four points or less, a testament to Philip Rivers, who's gotten by with a makeshift offensive line and without his two best receivers. It is likely too late to save the season now, but the Chargers are not afraid to throw the ball and will put up yards on anyone.

Kansas City at San Diego

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV: CBS

Spread: Chiefs -3

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Three Things to Watch

1. Charcandrick West Ascending

With the loss of Jamaal Charles for the season, West has emerged as the top weapon in the Chiefs' offense, putting up 417 total yards and four touchdowns in the last three games, all Chiefs wins. With an anemic passing offense (25th overall), most of the Chargers' focus will go on West and the Chiefs' ground game. The Chargers are 27th overall in rushing yards allowed per game so this is likely where the game will be won or lost.

2. Stop Danny Woodhead 

With the injuries to Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates, the Chargers have been left with Danny Woodhead as their primary weapon and he led the team in both rushing and receiving in their last game two weeks ago against the Bears. Just as the Chargers will be focusing on dual threat West, the Chiefs will center their gameplan around containing Woodhead. Yes, that's what it has come to for the Chargers, who will need Stevie Johnson to resurface to attack a stout Chiefs' defense.

3. Perhaps KC Will Pass?

With two of the Chargers' top three corners questionable, the time could be right for the Chiefs to get their passing game on track. And really, if they're to make any noise in the playoffs they won't be able to do it on the road with just West. Jason Verrett and Patrick Robinson still could dress, but will they be full strength? The Chiefs have broken 300 yards passing just once this season in a loss to the Bengals, and have only broken 200 yards a total of three times. It might be too much to expect them to suddenly start clicking through the air now, but an undermanned Chargers' secondary could set the stage.

Final Analysis

Despite these two teams appearing to be heading in two different directions, this divisional contest is pretty evenly matched. Both teams have been hit hard by injuries and are shadows of what they hoped to put on the field coming into the season. The Chiefs have some momentum, but the Chargers have only been a play or two away from wins in quite a few of their games. When you add it all up it looks like a close contest that will come down to the end.

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Prediction: Chargers 17, Chiefs 16

— Written by Mike Dussault, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writer/editor of PatsPropaganda.com (@PatsPropaganda), a comprehensive blog covering the New England Patriots.