COMMENTARY | The Kansas City Chiefs are entering unfamiliar territory following their first loss of the 2013 season, which came at the hands of the Denver Broncos this past Sunday night. But before the rematch next week, this team must first focus on another familiar AFC West foe in the San Diego Chargers.
What is interesting about the fallout of Kansas City's first defeat is that most of the biggest detractors of the 9-0 start actually seem to have found a bit more respect for this team, even after dropping one to the Broncos. But a letdown against the Chargers would raise more questions about just how far removed the Chiefs actually are from the previous failed regime.
San Diego has lost three-straight games after starting the season 4-3, and the Chiefs will look to quickly bounce back after hanging tough in Denver.
Here are a few things to follow during Sunday afternoon's contest.
When: Sunday, November 24 at 1:00 p.m. EST on CBS
Where: Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri
Key Matchup: Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead vs. Chiefs Front Seven
Players to Watch: Danny Woodhead and Derrick Johnson
Fun Fact: Overall series is tied at 52-52-1
Chargers Bold Prediction and Fantasy Beast: Danny Woodhead Sets Career Highs in Receptions and Receiving Yards
If not for Woodhead, Philip Rivers would not be having as good of a season as he is in 2013. The running back is second on the team in receptions and touchdowns, and is third in receiving yards; and is also San Diego's second leading rusher behind a finally healthy Mathews.
You will hardly ever see the smallish back run routes past the second level of the defense, which will actually play to San Diego's favor heavily this week. To help keep the Chiefs defense from hurrying Rivers when he throws, the Chargers will run a lot of screens, slants and quick outs -- all of which are where Woodhead thrives in the passing game.
Finding the end zone might be an issue for Woodhead, however, as the Chiefs have done an outstanding job of tightening up when they need to. But expect the all-purpose playmaker to play a pivotal role this week for San Diego and possibly set career highs in receptions (nine against the Oakland Raiders in Week 5 of this season) and receiving yards (104 against the New York Jets back in Week 13 of the 2010 season), especially if Kansas City is ahead on the scoreboard as expected for much of the game.
Chiefs Bold Prediction: Kansas City Held Without a Sack…Again
The Chiefs bolted out to a record-pace 35 quarterback sacks through just seven games this season, but with just one sack over the past three weeks (a bye week mixed in) this team has lost its primary edge on defense.
Manning and the Broncos negated Kansas City's pass rush by focusing on preventing Dontari Poe's push in the middle, running primarily out of the shotgun and by getting the ball out quickly to nullify Tamba Hali and Justin Houston off the edge. Rivers and the Chargers would do well to mimic this blueprint.
San Diego has allowed just 19 sacks on the season, which is good for the fourth-lowest total in the NFL. Though the Chargers don't quite possess the playmakers that Denver does in the passing game, Rivers has been very efficient by completing 70.9 percent of his passes and averaging 8.3 yards per attempt -- meaning that he is making good, quick decisions while allowing his receivers to do a lot of the work.
Fantasy Bust: Jamaal Charles
There is no doubt that Charles is the focal point of the Chiefs offense. The running back is on pace for career highs in rushing attempts, total touches, rushing and total touchdowns, and receiving yards, and has already set a new mark in receptions with 49.
With no consistent offensive contribution elsewhere for Kansas City, however, teams can focus primarily on keeping Charles from burning them too much out of the backfield -- something that San Diego will try to do on Sunday afternoon.
Charles started the season with seven-consecutive games of at least 100 total yards and one touchdown. But in the three games since, he has not found the end zone one time while failing to notch 100 total yards in the last two contests; and his total yards and touches have also decreased in each game since Week 6 against the Raiders.
The Kansas City offense relies heavily on Charles, so don't expect him to not get his chances. What you can anticipate, however, is the Chargers to stop at nothing to negate his impact.
Jeremy Sickel has successfully created and operated numerous websites. His work can be read on Yahoo and Bleacher Report, and he has also appeared on various podcasts and sports talk shows around the country. Interact with Jeremy on Twitter @JeremySickel
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- Danny Woodhead
- San Diego Chargers
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- Philip Rivers
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