The Kansas City Chiefs take their show on the road in week two as they head out west to SoFi stadium and face off against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chiefs and Chargers each won in week one, although the wins looked very differently.
The Chiefs beat the Texans in week one and looked dominate in doing so. While most are used to seeing the high flying, spread em out, and chuck it around Chiefs, it was actually the ground game on showcase in week one. Rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire had 25 carries for 138 yards, which led the NFL in week one. While CEH piled up the stats, new guard Kelechi Osemele was a a treat to watch on the interior. He was completely dominate in his first game with Kansas City. He, along with the rest of the offensive line, was able to continually open up holes against the Texans. I do not think, however, that the Chiefs are going to continue to lean on the run game throughout the season.
The Chiefs really could do anything they wanted on Thursday night in the opener. Unfortunately, the All-22 on NFL Game Pass isn’t out yet (extremely frustrating), so it is tough to see fully what the Texans were doing defensively, but it certainly seemed like they were allowing the Chiefs to run and giving up everything underneath. It really seemed like the emphasis was to take away the big play.
Mahomes did take whatever they gave him, completing 75% of his passes on 32 attempts. While everyone wants to see the big plays, the efficiency in which Mahomes was able to execute the offense was incredible to watch. The offense moved the ball up and down the field with ease and looked like a score was on the horizon on every drive.
The one area that they really seemed to struggle was goal line runs. JJ Watt blew up some plays in goal to go situations and in general the Chiefs struggled to run the ball in short yardage and goal line situations. This is something they are going to need to get better at, but the plan was very vanilla down there with a lot of basic run schemes. This isn’t to worrisome if you think about the creativity the Chiefs put on display in those same situations in the Super Bowl.
While the offense was dominate on one side of the ball, the defense was just as dominate on the other.
The Chiefs held the offense to basically nothing for the entirety of the game until the Texans capitalized on some garbage time touchdowns.
Chris Jones led the way with 1.5 sacks in the game and benefited greatly from the Texans offense paying a lot of attention to Frank Clark. The Texans were regularly sliding their line towards Clark, which left Jones with countless one-on-one battles. He took full advantage.
The secondary played well against a tough match-up in Deshaun Watson, Will Fuller, and company. Rookie L’Jarius Sneed specifically stood out as he was challenged numerous times while matched up against Fuller and stood up to that challenge. On one play specifically he was matched up with Fuller down the right sideline and was able to run stride with stride with him and break up the pass. He also added an interception on a play in which Tyrann Mathieu tossed aside tight end Darren Fells and got a hit on Watson, forcing the ball to pop up in the air.
While the Chiefs dominated, the Chargers did not.
They struggled with the Cincinnati Bengals led by rookie quarterback Joe Burrow.
Burrow led the Bengals on a, what should have been at worst, a game tying drive at the end of the game. He hit AJ Green in the front corner of the end zone for the game winning touchdown for it to only be called back with offensive pass interference. They settled for a short FG and missed that when kicker Randy Bullock apparently hurt his calf on the miss.
The Chargers defense is the strength of their team even with Derwin James out with injury. They have a good defensive front and some serious pass rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. The key for the Chiefs offense will be limiting the amount of pressure these guys can get on Mahomes.
I would expect a lot of RPO’s, screens, and quick passes early to neutralize that. With James out with injury, Travis Kelce could be in for a big game. Casey Heyward on the outside also helps funnel targets to Kelce. Heyward is one of the best corners in football and just won AFC defensive player of the week.
The Chiefs will have their hands full with the Chargers defense, but the Chiefs still have Mahomes who is the greatest player in the world so they should be able to put up plenty of points to get the W.
Defensively for the Chiefs they will see a Chargers offense that actually has some talent at the skill player positions. The biggest downfall for the Chargers is Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. He does not have the skillset to utilize all the weapons the Chargers have to offer.
One of the biggest weapons for them in week one was Mike Williams. He was banged up in the offseason, but looked healthy against the Bengals and was targeted often by Taylor. If Charvarius Ward is unable to go with his hand injury, he will be a tough matchup for Sneed or any other CB the Chiefs have to offer.
Another big target for Taylor is tight end Hunter Henry. This provides another mismatch for Kansas City if they are going to rely on their linebackers to cover him. The Chiefs linebackers looked slow against the Texans and rookie Willie Gay jr. is yet to see significant time. They will have to utilize the plethora of safeties they have to matchup with Hunter.
All in all the Chargers are going to want to run the ball. They will take their shots with Williams and Hunter, but they want to grind it out with Austin Ekeler and rookie Joshua Kelley.
Taylor is a good athlete at quarterback, so I would expect some RPOs and zone reads incorporated in their offense this week as well.
The Chiefs are a 8.5 point favorites and rightfully so. I expect them to get up early and the Chargers aren’t built to play from behind. As long as the Chiefs can protect Mahomes they should be in good shape offensively. It is whether or not the Chargers want to choose the quick or the slow death, like the Texans did.