There might still be three weeks left in the 2017 regular season, but the Kansas City Chiefs are basically in a playoff game this week. Under first-year head coach Anthony Lynn (who was potentially looking at going one-and-done), the Chargers are one of the hottest teams in football.
On the other side of the coin, the Kansas City Chiefs were the last remaining undefeated team in the National Football League this season, as they raced out to a 5-0 start. They're now riding a four-game win streak that includes a rout of the Redskins last weekend that kept them tied with the Chiefs atop the division. If the Chargers pressure him into a few mistakes, those 10-14 points could make the difference in a close game. This week could be a little bit different. A unit that clearly misses All-Pro safety Eric Berry has given up at least 400 yards six times this season, and ranks fifth-to-last at 373.4 yards allowed per game.
"There's so many weapons", Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said.
The Chiefs will use Smith on zone-read concepts to keep opposing defenses honest.
Alex Smith versus the fearsome Chargers pass rush. A play like that could sway momentum in a big way. The Chiefs offensive line is bleeding as their center Mitch Morse has been put on IR with a foot injury. To win this game the Chargers will need to get turnovers which they had in recent games and the way to get him to turn the ball over is by hitting him.
The Oakland Raiders dropped an important game Sunday, but the season isn't over yet. Compare that to the Chargers, who are on their fourth kicker this season after missing a total of eight field goals. And also part of the reason why there is so much buzz around the Chargers right now, despite L.A.'s newest franchise being 7-6. Of course, then they still have to deal with Keenan Allen on the intermediate stuff and that's no picnic either. In that case, Philip Rivers is used to carrying the Chargers' offense in a variety of circumstances.
The Chargers (7-6), meanwhile, lost their first four games and were almost written off before stringing together three straight wins.
When you play one of your division rivals with major stakes on the line, you want to go into the contest healthy. One of the most risky pass rushers, Justin Houston, will be lining up on right tackle Joe Barksdale's side, so the Chargers need to make sure that tight ends and running backs are chipping Houston to help Barksdale weather the storm.
In each of the last three games, that's true because the Lions must win out and hope the NFC South teams in contention have some losses this month.
On the other side, Marcus Peters is questionable to return from suspension while Dee Ford (back) is out. Chiefs starting quarterback Chase Daniel completed 16 of 27 passes for 157 yards in his second career start.
The Chiefs' swoon this season may one day deserve its own 30 for 30 episode.
Derek's Prediction: Chiefs 23, Chargers 17. Plus KC has beaten the Bolts seven straight times.
Here's a look ahead to Saturday night's action.