With a long history of playing against each other, the Kansas City Chiefs travel to Qualcomm Stadium to take on the San Diego Chargers in yet another game of this AFC West rivalry (8.20pm ET, Thursday).
This season has been kinder to the Chargers as they are 3-4 overall and 2-1 in the division. Quarterback Philip Rivers has been, for the most part, consistent and the running game has really picked up since Ryan Mathews returned from his clavicle injury. Former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Robert Meachem has provided the passing game with a nice shot in the arm, but a hamstring injury may cause him to miss this game.
The Chiefs on the other hand have been reeling since the first week of the season. A quarterback controversy ensued between Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn and fans have been restless, looking for an explanation for their 1-6 regular season start. They were the first team this season to have important front office personnel fired and with the exception of Jamaal Charles’ return from injury, have as a team, performed inconsistently.
Here are some of the top storylines heading into the Thursday night match-up.
Quarterback Controversy in Kansas City
When the Chiefs enter their week nine game against the Chargers, Matt Cassel will be their starting quarterback and could possibly be fighting for his job not only with the team but also as an NFL QB in general.
Kansas City was not considered to be taking much of a gamble when they signed Cassel after a stint with the New England Patriots. Sitting as the back up to future Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady, Cassel stepped in when Brady suffered a season ending injury in 2008. He played in all 16 games and amassed career high numbers of a 63.4 completion percentage, 3,693 passing yards, 7.16 yards per pass and an 89.4 passer rating. He also threw 21 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions as he led the Patriots to an 11-5 record, just missing the playoffs.
When Brady inevitably returned the next season, the need for Cassel was gone and because of his 2008 campaign, his trade value had skyrocketed. As a free agent, the Chiefs took a chance on the young QB with hopes he could be their quarterback of the future.
For the most part, Cassel lived up to the hype in his first two seasons with the team. In 2009 and 2010, Cassel passed for 6,040 yards, averaging 3,020 a season. He passed for 43 touchdowns including a career high 27 in 2010. He also threw just 23 interceptions.
2011 however did not go as well for Cassel. He played in only nine games because of injury and managed just 1,713 yards, 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. In 2012 Cassel’s struggles continued. It wasn’t until an injury that knocked him out of the game however, that saw Chiefs fans cheering, and the organization knowing that they may have to make a quarterback change. They did so with former top college player Brady Quinn, but the change didn’t last long. Quinn sustained an injury in week eight which put Cassel back as the starter, much to the chagrin of Chiefs fans.
In his first game back from injury, Cassel had a solid performance to the line of 218 yards, I TD, I INT and a season best 66.7 completion percentage. The Chiefs however lost to the Oakland Raiders 16-26, effectively putting Cassel’s job on the line.
(KC) Jamaal Charles vs. (SD) Ryan Mathews: Which Running Back Will Have the Better Day?
An interesting situation could play out on Thursday night as the NFL’s third best rushing attack faces off against the league’s second best run defense. The NFL’s 20th best running game is pitted against the league’s 23rd best rushing defense.
In 2011, Jamaal Charles suffered a bad ACL injury that cost him most of the season. 2012 has proved a different story.
On the season, Charles has put up numbers that are good enough for seventh in the NFL in yards with 595 and sixth in the NFL in rush yards per game at 85. He has just two games this season with less than 12 rushing attempts and has recorded less than 40 yards on the ground only twice. Unquestionably, his best game this season came against the 31st rushing defense of the New Orleans Saints, which he exploited, to the amount of 33 attempts, 233 yards and a touchdown. Not coincidentally, this was also the only game the Chiefs won this season.
The biggest obstacle standing in Charles way is the tough rushing defense of the Chargers, which already limited the KC running back to just 88 yards on 17 carries in their match-up earlier this season, won by the Chargers.
This San Diego defense has certainly been up to the task this year. They have faced perennial top ten running backs including (OAK) Darren McFadden (15 carries for 32 yards), (TEN) Chris Johnson (8-for-17), (ATL) Michael Turner (14-for-80) and (DEN) Willis McGahee (17-for-56) and have only allowed a 100+ yard rusher once.
Opposing Charles is Ryan Mathews, who is also recovering from injury.
Mathews had his breakout year in 2011 when he effectively took over the starting job belonging to LaDanian Tomlinson. Mathews played in 14 games, rushed for over 1,000 yards, averaged 4.9 yards a carry and scored six touchdowns. Because of his success, the Chargers parted with their goal line running back and established Mathews as the everyday back going forward in 2012.
Since coming back from a clavicle injury to play the Chargers week four game against the Atlanta Falcons, Mathews has seen his workload and his production steadily increase. He played his best game last week, where he rushed for 24 attempts and 95 yards.
In Kansas City, Mathews has a favorable match-up that could see him record his first 100 yard rushing performance of the season. He will be facing off against the league’s 23rd worst rushing defense, a defense that has allowed three 100-yard rushers in seven games.
Kansas City Chiefs v San Diego Chargers Betting Pick Verdict
Expect to see the running game featured for both teams. That said, the Chargers are favored by nine points, which is steep for a team that has performed so inconsistently both straight up and against the spread this season. Despite the Chiefs’ struggles, take KC to beat the spread:
- KC have a hefty head start on the spread so bet on Kansas City Chiefs +9pts @ -120 with Bovada. It is -130 with BetOnline Sportsbook. Non-Americans should place their bets with Bet365.