How will injuries and COVID-19 impact Thursday night’s AFC West showdown

The winner of Thursday night’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers will be one to watch. Both sides will be missing key players, which raises the stakes even higher for this AFC West matchup.

All across professional sports right now, COVID-19 cases have been rising. In the NBA, the Chicago Bulls were forced to postpone several games this past week due to not having the minimum amount of players needed for a game. The NFL is also dealing with players being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list left and right. Rams starting tight end Tyler Higbee tested was reported to have tested positive before Monday night’s game, later coming out as a false positive. Nonetheless shows how anybody can be affected up until game time.

It’s not just a problem for certain teams in the NFL, it’s becoming a domino effect throughout the entire league. Over 100 cases have been reported across the league since Monday. Then you throw normal injuries on top of that. Teams are having to resort to signing players to their practice squad for emergency purposes, just in case, a group of players goes down.

Who will the Chiefs be missing?

It’s been one after another for Andy Reid’s squad as of lately. They first lost wide receiver Josh Gordon during the late stages of Monday night. Gordon was able to haul in his first touchdown since the 2019 season. He was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday after testing positive for the virus.

The next day they suffered a huge loss on the opposite side of the ball. Star defense tackle Chris Jones was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. His presence in the middle of the Chiefs’ front seven will be missed. It will be up to the likes of Melvin Ingram, Jarran Reed, Frank Clark, and Derrick Nnadi to apply pressure to Justin Herbert.

Wednesday brought two more losses to the red hot Chiefs’ defense. As cornerback L’Jarius Sneed was ruled out for Thursday’s contest. Sneed will miss his second game in a row after leaving the team to be with his family following the horrible news that his brother had been murdered last weekend. Linebacker Willie Gay was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, creating a problem in the heart of the defense. Who will roll out Austin Ekeler who demands attention from the opposing defense before the ball is even snapped?

Who will the Chargers be missing?

Unlike Kansas City, the Chargers have yet to be hit with a COVID-19 outburst within their team. Their absences have more to do with injuries rather than players being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. However, they will be missing two starters on their offensive line.

Before the Chargers Week 14 matchup against the New York Giants, backup center Scott Quessenberry was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, after testing positive for the virus. Chargers’ first-round draft pick Rashawn Slater has been ruled out for Thursday night’s matchup following a positive COVID-19 test on Monday. They will have to lean on third-year player Trey Pipkins to start at left tackle. Pipkins has made eight starts over the past two seasons. Giving up 15 pressures, six quarterback hits, and four sacks during his four games at left tackle.

They also have several players who have been limited in practice throughout the short week. Austin Ekeler, Derwin James Jr., and Asante Samuel Jr. are all listed as questionable for the game but are expected to play in the contest.

What’s next for the Chiefs?

The Chiefs will need a huge game from their defense to slow down quarterback Justin Herbert who was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week last week. Rookie linebacker Nick Bolton will have to step up in order to be able to track down Ekeler out of the backfield. On the bright side, Herbert will be throwing against Mike Hughes, who was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week.

Kansas City will have to rely on their playmakers on offense and defense. Especially on defense, the Chargers offense is loaded with weapons. Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams, and now throw Keenan Allen back into the mix after he missed the Chargers Week 14 contest after being added to the reserve/COVID-19 list.

What’s next for the Chargers?

140.7. That’s how many rushing yards that Los Angeles gives up per game. Which are the second-most in the league behind the Houston Texans. Clyde Edwards-Helaire needs to be a factor in this game and the Chargers need to do everything in their power to make sure he doesn’t catch fire. If they’re able to contain Edwards-Helaire, it will be up to their offense to do the heavy lifting.

Although the Chargers aren’t dealing with as many absences as the Chiefs, they’re still missing key members of their offensive line. They will need to be able to disrupt the momentum that the Chiefs’ defense has been feeding off of.

The offense has been clicking at the right time, despite the loss to Denver in Week 12. Herbert has overcome some early season jitters. This should be one of the best Thursday night matchups of the season.