6 Chiefs players to watch in Week 17 vs. Chargers

Charles Goldman and John Dillon
·5 min read

The Kansas City Chiefs are set to play the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 17. This will be a unique game for the team and fans alike because the Chiefs have everything clinched. This game is wholly meaningless in terms of standings, playoffs and really the only true meaning to this game is evaluation.

Kansas City decision-makers get the rare opportunity to get a look at the bottom of the roster in Week 17. Many, if not all starters will be sitting out this week and it’ll be up to the backup players to go out there and get a win. So who should Chiefs fans keep an eye on this week?

Here are six players to watch in Week 17:

WR Byron Pringle

AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann

Kansas City's wide receiver corps was billed as the team's deepest position group at the beginning of the season, but with the 2020 campaign coming to a close, it seems they're in dire need of a new contributor. Mecole Hardman and Sammy Watkins both took a step back this year, and the offense has been forced to live and die by the outrageous pace Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill have set as a receiver-tight end combo. Enter Byron Pringle, a Kansas State alumnus and 2021 exclusive rights free agent who has been mostly relegated to kickoff duty. Having caught just nine passes this year, his contributions haven't been many, but his 108 yards are good for eighth on the team for receiving. A kickoff return touchdown earlier this season proved that the big play ability is there. He'll likely see his first consistent action Sunday, in what could be a perfect storm of an audition headed into the playoffs. -John Dillon

RB Darwin Thompson

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

At the onset of the 2019 season, the hype surrounding Thompson was at its pinnacle. Chiefs would see flashes of greatness during the preseason, but they'd soon learn that his flashes were just that. He wouldn’t see more than 35% of the offensive snaps all season in 2019 and his biggest game had a four-yard-per-carry average with a single touchdown. Enter the 2020 season and fans were hoping Thompson had turned the corner and was set to contribute. Unfortunately, a Week 3 fumble against the Ravens found him in the proverbial dog house. The team added Le’Veon Bell at the midseason mark and Thompson's role all but diminished. On the season he's had just 13 carries for 52 yards. He’s been targeted four times in the passing game but doesn’t have a single reception. Thompson hasn’t capitalized on his opportunities to this point, but a strong performance in Week 17 could do a lot for him and his future with this franchise. -Charles Goldman

DT Khalen Saunders

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Former third-round pick Khalen Saunders hasn't quite panned out for the Chiefs yet in terms of on-field impact, but with a steep learning curve from playing FCS ball at Western Illinois, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Chances are the team still likes him as a prospect, otherwise, he wouldn't be on the team. Injuries have slowed down his development, but perhaps he isn't fully acclimated to the pace of the NFL at this point. There's no telling, but Sunday will be a litmus test for fans and coaches alike, who have only seen him dress for two games this year. He made a single tackle in limited appearances but could be a star in this rest-the-starters scenario. -John Dillon

OL Martinas Rankin

AP Photo/Jason Behnken

Rankin turned out to be one of the best offensive linemen for Kansas City in 2019. He allowed a single sack in his five games started at left guard before suffering a season-ending knee injury. It’s been a long road to recovery for Rankin, but this will be his opportunity to prove that he’s still got it — that he can still be the dominant player that he felt he was becoming in 2019. The Chiefs have some decisions to make at the tackle position in 2021 and the re-emergence of Rankin as a contributor could go a long way toward helping the team in those decisions. He hasn’t played a snap of football apart from practice in a full calendar year, so where he’s at in his recovery from injury will be interesting to see. He's slated to start and his performance could be pivotal to the future direction of the offensive line. -Charles Goldman

CB DeAndre Baker

AP Photo/Vera Nieuwenhuis

Short on secondary help early this season, Kansas City leaped at the chance to sign former first-round pick DeAndre Baker after an offseason incident saw him cut by the Giants. As soon as his name was cleared and charges were dropped, Baker caught a flight to Arrowhead and inked a deal that got him on the practice squad. Active on the 53-man roster since mid-December, Baker could make a huge impact for the Chiefs if he flashes the skills he showed as a high selection in the 2019 NFL draft. The teams' newfound depth at cornerback has kept him from seeing any significant amount of snaps, but given his situation, a big game this week could change everything for him. -John Dillon

CB BoPete Keyes

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Keyes is the only player from the Chiefs' rookie draft class that we haven’t really seen in action so far. It’s not exactly his fault either, because he got a late start this offseason due to an orbital fracture and was playing catch up early on when Kansas City had injuries in the secondary. He’s played sparingly during the season with a few snaps in relief during Week 7 and Week 8. Apart from that, all of his snaps have come on special teams. The Chiefs traded back into the seventh round of the 2020 NFL draft after to selected Keyes. They obviously saw something in the player, so this will be a chance to finally get a glimpse at what he can offer this team moving forward. If Brett Veach's track record with late-round and undrafted cornerbacks is any indication, we're in for a treat. -Charles Goldman

OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
Buffalo
+130+3O 54.5
Kansas City
-154-3U 54.5