SAN DIEGO -- The challenge this week for the Kansas City Chiefs is almost a complete opposite of what they faced last week against the Denver Broncos, who had one of the NFL’s best defenses, some serious receiving threats but an aging and injured quarterback.
The Chargers otherwise have a couple of receivers the Chiefs need to be concerned about. One is running back Danny Woodhead, who leads the NFL in yards after the catch, and tight end Antonio Gates, who has had plenty of big games against Kansas City over the years.
Otherwise, things are a mess for the 2-7 Chargers, who have little going for them on defense or in the running game. The 4-5 Chiefs, winners of their past three games by at least 10 points, should have enough going for them to beat San Diego, even in what could be their final game at Qualcomm Stadium.
Though defense is deservedly getting the credit for Kansas City’s recent turnaround, the offense is suddenly doing its part. The Chiefs are averaging almost 25 points per game, 10th best in the NFL, and that’s after playing five games against opponents rated in the top 10 in scoring defense.
They scored 45 points in the one game, against the Detroit Lions, in which they played a bottom-five defense. The Chargers also have a bottom-five defense, so the Chiefs should be able to score enough to win this one, too.
One thing that should be troubling to the Chiefs is the turnover factor. They are plus-10 in turnovers during their three-game winning streak. They haven’t fumbled since their last defeat a month ago against the Vikings, and quarterback Alex Smith has gone 228 straight passes without throwing an interception.
The Chiefs are, to an extent, living off turnovers. Sooner or later, the ball is going to bounce the other way. The Chiefs are strong enough to overcome a turnover or two.
But they need to be careful here. The Chargers, who are coming off their bye, are in that place the Chiefs were a few weeks ago. They’re ready to make a stand for their season and they can’t wait any longer.
So it wouldn’t be a surprise for the Chargers to come with a strong effort against a division rival. The Chiefs, not accounting for the turnover factor, are good enough to deal with that and on a down-to-down basis should win the game. The final margin just might be closer than they would like.
Prediction: Chiefs 24, Chargers 17