8:20 PM EST, NFL Network – Line: Chiefs -3.5, Over/Under: 53
With the Regular Season winding down, there is still much to be decided in Week Fifteen when Division rivals meet with heavy postseason implications as the Kansas City Chiefs host the Los Angeles Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas city, Missouri. It’s safe to say that the Chargers (10-3, 2nd in AFC West) had this particular contest circled on their schedule for a few months now, particularly after they were handled by the Chiefs in the Season Opener 38-28. After a disappointing 1-2 start, Los Angeles has since won nine out of their last ten outings, including three in a row entering this crucial affair at Arrowhead. A win tonight will allow Anthony Lynn’s charges to draw even with Kansas City, and if they manage to win out, an all-important First Round Bye is not out of the cards. When last we saw them, the Chargers were fortunate to escape a matchup with the dwindling Cincinnati Bengals, perhaps looking ahead to their showdown with the Chiefs. The hosts jumped out to a quick 14-3 lead, though allowed Cincinnati to claw their way back into the tie, in large part to their inability to punch the football into the end zone. After back-to-back 75-Yard Drives resulting in Touchdowns to begin the game, Los Angeles did nothing but settle for Field Goals the rest of the way, with four out of their final five drives ending in three points. For the first time this season, Philip Rivers (69.4%, 3,638 YDS, 8.09 NY/A, 29 TD, 6 INT, 75.5 QBR) & Co. were relegated below 300 Yards of Total Offense, amassing juts Seventeen First Downs, while converting on only 5-of-13 Third Downs. As for Rivers himself, the veteran Quarterback was rather underwhelming, completing 19-of-29 Passes for 220 Yards and a Touchdown, largely failing to take advantage of a Bengals Defense that ranks dead last in the league in both Points Allowed (30.5 P/G) and Total Defense (421.9 Y/G). This particular contest highlighted just how valuable Melvin Gordon (153 CAR, 802 YDS, 5.2 Y/C, 9 TD) is to this Offense, for without him, Los Angeles sorely lacked balance, rushing for just Eighty-Five Yards on Twenty-Five Carries, and as mentioned earlier, any real teeth in the Red Zone. The Pro Bowl Tailback suffered a Grade 2 MCL Sprain in a 45-10 drubbing of the miserable Arizona Cardinals, and has been kept on the sidelines for each of the past two outings. He’s officially listed as Questionable for this matchup with the Chiefs, though it bears mentioning that the initial diagnosis read that he would miss at least three weeks of action, leaving his availability up in the air.
Meanwhile, if you’re one to read into statement wins, then the Chiefs (11-2, 1st in AFC West) almost certainly just earned theirs of this 2018 campaign, besting the Baltimore Ravens 27-24 in Overtime last weekend. In an affair that featured six lead changes, Kansas City found a way to rally from a 17-24 deficit late in the Fourth Quarter to force the extra period, where a Harrison Butker 35-Yard Field Goal gave them the lead for good. If you happened to be looking for one game that you could get behind in supporting Patrick Mahomes (66.8%, 4,300 YDS, 8.21 NY/A, 43 TD, 11 INT, 83.6 QBR) for the 2018 MVP award, this was in all likelihood it; the young Gun-Slinger with a rocket for a right arm fought tooth and nail against a nasty Ravens’ Defense, completing 35-of-53 Passes for 377 Yards, Two Touchdowns and an Interception, though was at his best in the final stanza and Overtime. Down seven points with just over four minutes left to play in the Fourth, the Spohomore Quarterback guided the hosts from their own 25-Yard Line, going 6-of-7 for Eighty-Four Yards, converting on a crucial 4th & 9 from his own 40-Yard Line with 1:29 remaining, hitting Tyreek Hill (74 REC, 1,258 YDS, 17.0 Y/R, 11 TD) for a gamebreaking 48-Yard Completion to move his side into the Red Zone, where four plays later he would find Damien Williams for the game-tying Touchdown. Of course, the only reason that the game went to Overtime anyway, was due to the aforementioned Butker missing 43-Yard Attempt after the Chiefs’ Defense forced a crucial Sack Fumble Recovery with 0:44 left on the clock, granting them the football on the Ravens’ 23-Yard Line. In the extra frame, Mahomes once again went to work from his own 25-Yard Line, guiding the Chiefs to their opponent’s 17-Yard Line, with Butker hammering home the go-ahead score. Against a Defense that harassed him throughout the day, and without the benefit of a running game thanks to Kareem Hunt’s release (Domestic Violence), Mahomes turned in a virtuoso performance well beyond his years, which must be very encouraging to Andy Reid and everyone in their organization. With that said, their is no time to sit back and admire their respective handiwork, for the Chargers have been breathing down their collective necks for some time now, with the fate of the AFC West likely being decided this Thursday Night. When they met in that aforementioned 38-28 victory in Los Angeles, Reid’s charges jumped on their division rivals early, establishing a 14-3 lead midway through the First Quarter, before the hosts began to make a game out of things. However, it was just about all Kansas City after the midway point in the second stanza, with Mahomes & Co. outscoring the home side 24-8 the rest of the until their counterparts tallied a garbage time Touchdown to make the score more respectable. Though the Chiefs took advantage of two costly Chargers’ Turnovers, their own Defense was shredded by Philip Rivers & Co., who moved the football at will with Thirty-Three First Downs and 541 Total Yards of Offense. Granted, Kansas City’s Defense hasn’t improved much at all over the course of the season, ranking Twenty-Eighth in Points Allowed (27.0 P/G), and Thirtieth in Total Yards Allowed (409.6 Y/G), though they only yielded 321 Yards to Baltimore in a contest that went the distance and then some.