For the Los Angeles Chargers, it’s put up or shut up time.
Sunday night the Chargers welcome the 7-2 Kansas City Chiefs to SoFi Stadium in a key AFC West Division battle. The Chargers are 5-4, hammered by injuries, and two games back of the Chiefs in the standings. A Chiefs win would hand them the tiebreaker (Kansas City won the Week 2 meeting) and a three-game lead.
In other words, they can probably start banner shopping in Kansas City with a win.
Kansas City has won three in a row, but four of the last five games between the Chiefs and Chargers have been decided by six points or less. Justin Herbert is one of the few quarterbacks in the league who can match the throws of Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes.
Here’s looking at the match-up.
How To Watch
Kickoff: 5:20 p.m. local time
Screens: Find it on NBC and the NBC Sports App.
Announcers: Milquetoast Mike Tirico handles the play by play. Cris Collinsworth does the chirping (I like him, but a lot of people don’t). Melissa Stark prowls the sidelines.
What Do The Oddsmakers Say?
As of Thursday night, DraftKings and Caesars each list the Chiefs as five-point favorites and the over/under number at 52. Five is a unique number for an NFL point spread. The DraftKings line started at Chiefs by a touchdown.
The Chiefs are now the second choice on the DraftKings board to win the Super Bowl at +500. The Chargers are 12th at +3500. The Chiefs are also -1200 to win the AFC West.
Mahomes has moved up the MVP futures board. He’s now the top choice at +115 to be NFL MVP since Bills quarterback Josh Allen has fallen off. Justin Herbert is still on the MVP board at +10000.
Key Numbers – Spread Talking
This is the third time in the 2022-23 season the Chargers are listed as underdogs. They are 6-3 against the spread this season. Kansas City has been favored in eight of its nine games. They are 4-5 against the spread.
Four of the last five times these two teams have played, the Chiefs have been favored.
Key Numbers – Talking It Over/Under
52 is a big number for the over/under. This season only four Chiefs game have gone over 52 points and only three Charger games have gone over 52.
The Chiefs offense ranks No. 2 in the NFL in yards per game, the Chargers offense is 15th in the same category. The Chiefs lead the NFL in scoring at 30 points a game.
Defensively, the Chargers rank 29th in the NFL allowing 25.3 points a game. The Chiefs give up 22.9 and rank 16th in points allowed.
Where are the Chargers weak? Stopping the run. Los Angeles ranks third to last in rushing defense in the NFL.
Another interesting stat nugget, the Chargers are +2 in turnover margin this season while the Chiefs are -4.
Last Five Meetings
These are two of the original American Football League franchises. Remember, the Chargers started in Los Angeles, then moved to San Diego, but are now back in L.A. The Chiefs were originally the Dallas Texans before moving to Kansas City. The first meeting was in 1960. The Chiefs lead the all-time series 66-58 with one tie.
2022 Week 2 – Chiefs 27, Chargers 24: Remember this one? The Chargers were driving for a go-ahead touchdown when Herbert was picked off near the goal line and Jaylen Watson ran it back 99 yards for a score. A series later Herbert got popped in the ribs, but stayed in the game. LA scored again late, but couldn’t recover the onside kick.
2021 Week 15 – Chiefs 34, Chargers 28 OT: Herbert hit Keenan Allen with a go-ahead TD pass with 2:19 left, but that was way too much time for Mahomes and the Chiefs. Travis Kelce scored in regulation to tie it. The Chiefs won the coin toss for OT and Kelce scored again on a 34-yard catch and run to break the Chargers heart.
2021 Week 3 – Chargers 30, Chiefs 24: One of the best games in the NFL in the last five years. The Chargers scored nine points in the final 2:14, helped by a questionable pass interference call on the Chiefs. Herbert hit a leaping Mike Williams with 32 seconds left to win it.
2020 Week 17 – Chargers 38, Chiefs 21: This was Charger coach Anthony Lynn’s last game, but the season ended on a four-game win streak for LA. The Chiefs rested everyone having made the playoffs. Chad Henne started at QB. Herbert had four touchdowns. Lynn got fired. The Chiefs went to the Super Bowl.
2020 Week 2 – Chiefs 23, Chargers 20 OT: Herbert made his first career start and threw for 311 yards, but it wasn’t enough as Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker drilled a 58-yard field goal in overtime ruining the Chargers first home game at SoFi Stadium.
If we listed all the Chargers who were hurt, we’d be here forever. Let’s just do the good news. Wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams each practiced Wednesday, so maybe they’ll play Sunday? The Chargers are still without Joey Bosa, Austin Johnson and Rashawn Slater. Offensive tackle Trey Pipkins III practiced this week.
The Chiefs have some injury concerns especially at the wide receiver spot. Mecole Hardman was put on injured reserve, Juju Smith-Schuster missed time this week with a concussion, but Marquez Valdez-Scantling is expected to play.
The X Factor
The Chargers can’t stop Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Period.
Kelce didn’t play in the 2020 season finale against the Chargers but in the last four games against Los Angeles he has owned the Chargers defense with 31 catches for 436 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Now, the Chargers shouldn’t feel too bad, no one can really match up with Kelce and he has great chemistry with Mahomes, so it comes down to the pass rush. The Chargers need to get pressure up the middle against Mahomes and hope that Khalil Mack can come off the edge and make Mahomes worry. The biggest problem though is the Chargers defensive line is in shambles so this is a match-up that favors the Chiefs.