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Week 9: Chiefs-Chargers preview

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Kansas City Chiefs (1-6) at San Diego Chargers (3-4)

Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network, Brad Nessler, Mike Mayock, Alex Flanagan

Last meeting: In the first meeting this season on Sept. 30, the Chargers beat the Chiefs 37-20, jumping ahead 20-0 and scoring 24 points off six turnovers, including five first-half takeaways.

Streaking: The Chargers have won four straight over Kansas City in San Diego, but this season are being outscored 72-65 at Qualcomm Stadium. ... This is the fifth time in six seasons the Chargers have a losing streak of at least three games.

Give 'em a TO margin: The Chargers are No. 2 in the NFL in run defense (80.0 yards per game), but are in a prove-it spot this week. RB Jamaal Charles is fresh after logging but five carries Sunday, and San Diego was trampled by rookie Trent Richardson for 122 yards and a 26-yard TD in a 7-6 loss to the Browns in which the Cleveland offense was highly predictable. Kansas City's approach won't vary far from the Browns' blueprint. Peyton Hillis brings a strong second option and change of pace to Charles' blur speed. Charles averages 5.0 yards per carry this season and 6.2 yards in his career against the Chargers. Cassel, back as starter with Brady Quinn (concussion) out, averaged almost three turnovers and three sacks in his five starts and constantly has had Kansas City bailing water with a minus-18 turnover margin. Tying up LB Shaun Phillips, who leads the Chargers with five sacks, is the first order of business for a shell-shocked offensive line.

Rivers running shallow: Philip Rivers isn't given the time to read the entire route tree. Without a fine-tuned route-runner outside to depend upon, when his assortment of deep threats aren't open instantly, he's checking the ball down to RBs Ronnie Brown and Ryan Mathews. Brown has discovered new life as a third-down specialist and caught seven passes for 85 yards last week. Mathews' ball security issues lend to the Chargers' plan to resume a rotation in the backfield. TE Antonio Gates scored his only two touchdowns this season in the loss to Denver on Oct. 15 but has caught only 15 of the 29 passes intended for him in the other five games in which he played. The Chiefs' pressure comes from the edges; Justin Houston has six sacks and Tamba Hali's 9.5 sacks against the Chargers are his most against any opponent. If Rivers can look underneath to Gates and Brown, Kansas City will have to peel back and challenge Rivers to settle for the kind of dink-and-dunk drives that have made him antsy and led to unforced turnovers.

Need to know: Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe needs seven catches and one touchdown to reach 400 receptions and 40 touchdowns. ... Rivers is 5-1 at home against Kansas City. He has a 40-8 career record as a starter when he posts a passer rating of 100 or better.
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