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Chiefs should depend on Travis Kelce to beat Chargers

Travis Kelce (c.)
Photograph: Getty Photographs

I do know a number of followers may be inclined to assume this Thursday Night time Soccer recreation might be decrease scoring than we’re anticipating. L.A.’s Keenan Allen was ruled out, and this would be the first time within the Justin Herbert period that the Chiefs might be with out Tyreek Hill. Nevertheless, in case final week wasn’t sufficient proof already, the Chiefs don’t want Hill with a view to be explosive. Whereas the lack of Allen does harm the Chargers’ passing assault, Herbert proved greater than able to spreading the ball round to different playmakers in final week’s victory over the Raiders. This recreation will clearly be a measuring stick for each franchises, one which improved drastically over the offseason and one which many believed had regressed in that very same span.

I do know it sounds apparent to assert that the Chiefs want their All-Professional tight finish and go-to passing weapon to carry out nicely to ensure that Kansas Metropolis to win, but it surely goes additional than that. Whereas the Chargers upgraded at edge rusher with the addition of Khalil Mack in addition to at cornerback with the addition of J.C. Jackson (you would argue the addition of Sebastian Joseph-Day was additionally a giant improve), they didn’t improve their linebacking corps. A slot nook is just too small to cowl somebody as large and proficient as Kelce, and Los Angeles’ inside linebackers simply aren’t proficient sufficient to cowl him. I imply, Kenneth Murray had a 38.1 coverage grade from Professional Soccer Focus final season. Certain, Drue Tranquill is best in protection, however he’s nonetheless somewhat inexperienced. Regardless of 2022 being Tranquill’s fourth yr within the NFL, he’s solely began 12 video games in his profession. Plus, the final time Tranquill was put accountable for overlaying Kelce, Kelce went off for 10 receptions, 191 yards, and two touchdowns. Tranquill was given a 29.6 coverage grade — the second-lowest of his profession — throughout 36 cross protection snaps that recreation.

The logical conclusion can be to stay Derwin James on Kelce. James’ physicality has been heralded by NFL gamers ever since he got here into the league. He performs greater than his dimension (he’s already a giant man) and would most likely be the most effective probability for the Chargers to restrict Kelce’s impression. Hell, even Kelce himself has sung James’ praises. The final time they performed, when James was on the sphere, Kelce solely had one catch for fourteen yards. Return up and take a look at his line for your entire evening. Yeah, James’ presence was felt.

So, now the query is, would the Chiefs’ huge receivers be proficient sufficient to hold the offense if Kelce’s impression is restricted by James? The optimistic a part of me hoping for a high-scoring affair desires to say sure. Whereas J.C. Jackson will doubtless shut down JuJu Smith-Schuster a lot of the evening, Patrick Mahomes did say previous to the season that the offense would run through a different receiver every week. Whereas Smith-Schuster might have been the highest wideout choice towards Arizona, it might very nicely be Skyy Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and even working again Clyde Edwards-Helaire who will get the majority of the targets towards L.A. tonight. That’s the place Joey Bosa and Mack are available in.

Mack appeared like his prime self final week towards his former staff, recording three sacks and simply general being a menace as a run defender as nicely. That’s been Mack’s largest energy the previous couple of years as his pass-rushing prowess has taken a dip. Assuming that final week was a fluke and that we received’t see one other three-sack efficiency from Mack all season, the previous Defensive Participant of the Yr will doubtless be restricted in his impact on this recreation towards KC.

The Chiefs have never been a very efficient team running the ball with Edwards-Helaire, and while Isiah Pacheco looked capable as a runner in Week 1, he received the bulk of his carries in the second half of what was already a blowout win. Either way, the Chiefs will likely look to avoid running all that often against a stout Chargers defensive line, so Mack’s value will have to come as a pass rusher, and that could be a problem depending on who he’s lined up against most of the night.

The Chargers will look to take advantage of the Chiefs’ inexperienced right tackle Andrew Wylie. He’s definitely not a pushover, but he’s undoubtedly the weakest part of that Chiefs’ offensive line and will likely be fed a healthy dose of Mack and Bosa all night. Aside from Wylie though, the Chiefs don’t have too much of a hole anywhere on their O-line. Andy Reid is obviously a phenomenal coach and shouldn’t have a problem drawing up protection plans to mitigate any effort the Chargers might make to force Wylie into a one-on-one situation with either of their All-Pro edge rushers.

Despite all the improvements the Chargers made this offseason, the Chiefs still hold the advantage in my opinion. Their improvements are mostly countered by how the Chiefs operate. They don’t rely on a single receiver, so J.C. Jackson might be a non-factor. They don’t run the ball as often as you’d like, so Mack’s strengths are limited. Aside from that, it’s mostly the same Chargers team that the Chiefs battle well every time.

The game is in Kansas City, and the absence of Keenan Allen could hurt the Chargers drastically considering how poorly the Cardinals’ offense performed against what is considered a weak Chiefs’ secondary without DeAndre Hopkins. This game should be a shootout, and while there is a blueprint for how the Chargers could hold the Chiefs’ offense to a very low score, there is too much for L.A. to focus on and there wasn’t enough time to prepare. Either team could win, but the Chiefs undoubtedly have the upper hand.

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