With the Kansas City Chiefs heading to Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday to take on the San Diego Chargers, many questions loom in the minds of Chiefs and Chargers fans alike. The Chargers (8-7) still have an outside shot at a playoff berth, and will be hoping for losses from the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens to push them into the last playoff position in the AFC.
For the Chiefs (11-4), their position is locked in as the no. 5 seed in the AFC, and it would seem that they have little to play for. Andy Reid has shown a propensity to rest his key players in similar situations in the past, and one would be inclined to think he’d be wise to do the same today. But with the Chiefs on a bit of a skid over the past six weeks, would it be in the best interest of the team to attempt to gain some momentum heading into their wild card matchup?
The Chiefs already lost a shootout to the Chargers earlier in the season 38-41, a game in which Phillip Rivers absolutely tore apart a Chiefs defense still reeling from a 17-27 defeat to the Denver Broncos the week before. The Chiefs’ secondary made Rivers look like Roger Staubach in his prime, allowing him to throw for 392 yards along with three touchdowns.
But with this game possibly holding no weight for either team by the time kickoff rolls around, what should we expect? The Chargers will surely have more to play for; even if they’re eliminated from playoff contention, heading into the 2014 season with a winning record would surely instill more confidence into a team that will need it to compete in a rugged AFC West division.
With Ryan Mathews and Eddie Royal both possibly out for the contest, don’t expect a win to come as easily this time around for San Diego. Mathews has elevated his game tremendously over the latter half of the season, at times looking like the top back that the Chargers drafted him to be back in 2010.
But even if both are ruled out, the Chargers will still have Keenan Allen on the field, who made it look easy against the Chiefs during their last meeting, catching nine passes for 124 yards.
While the Chiefs can’t do any better or worse seeding-wise, they would certainly benefit from heading into the playoffs coming off a win. A defense that has faded in recent weeks could be revitalized by a solid performance against the San Diego offense. On the offensive side of the ball, assuming Jamaal Charles sits the majority of the game, the Chiefs’ coaching staff will be interested to see what Knile Davis can do with an expanded role.
Davis, drafted by the Chiefs in the third round of this year’s draft, has showed promise with his limited touches this season. In addition to already holding the Chiefs’ record for longest kick return (108 yards against the Broncos in Week 13), Davis has proven that he may have the ability to become a top-tier running back in the future.
Davis runs a 4.37 40-yard dash, and his explosiveness between the tackles in undeniable. Expect him to show what he can do with his increased role as I expect him to have a huge day if given the opportunity.
This game is all about momentum for both teams, as neither will likely have anything tangible to play for come kickoff. Expect Kansas City to rest key players, but they won’t simply roll over and concede. These are all NFL players, backups or not, and they are all capable of performing at the highest level. Expect both teams to come out playing to win, but ultimately, I see the Chargers prevailing for the second time this season against the Chiefs 27-21.