The Kansas City Chiefs already have their postseason ticket punched, but the San Diego Chargers have lots to play for on Sunday afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium.
San Diego will need both Miami and Baltimore to lose or tie before kick-off for a shot at a wild card berth, while the Chiefs already have a playoff spot secured despite last week’s 23-7 home loss to Indianapolis.
Kansas City could both spoil San Diego's slim playoff hopes, while getting back on track after going 2-4 since the bye week. The Chiefs went from a top 10 team in total defense, and held opponents to 12.3 points in their first nine games of the season, but have since fallen to 23rd against the pass, and 21st versus the rush, and opponents have averaged nearly 28 points a game.
Running back Jamaal Charles has been a major contributor for the ground game in the final stretch of the season. The veteran is making a strong case for league MVP, scoring 11 of his 19 total touchdowns in the last five weeks.
San Diego and quarterback Philip Rivers found their late-season groove with impressive victories at Kansas City in Week 12 and at Denver in Week 15, while nearly toppling Cincinnati in order to stay in the playoff hunt.
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Rivers, along with the running back tandem of Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead and rookie receiver Keenan Allen, has torched opponents 141-102 in the last five weeks for a 4-1 record. Allen has been especially effective with five touchdowns during the Chargers' three-game win streak.
Though lacking a serious pass rush, San Diego’s defense jumped to 10th against the run, with safety Eric Weddle leading the way with 101 total tackles and 10 passes defended, followed by fourth-year linebacker Donald Butler with 74 total tackles.
The Kansas City pass rush has struggled during the Chiefs downturn. In the last five games, the Chiefs have forced eight sacks compared to 36 in the previous 10 games.
Defensive Player of the Year candidate Tamba Hali is currently listed as questionable with a knee injury. Hali is tied for the team lead in sacks with Justin Houston with 11 this season. Houston hasn’t played since the Week 12 loss to San Diego, but was a full participant in practice the last two days. However, Hali hasn’t taken the practice field all week.
The Chargers offensive line has allowed a paltry 27 sacks this season, the third best mark in the NFL.
Meanwhile, San Diego may have concerns about Matthews and receiver Eddie Royal, who have also sat out of practice all week with ankle and toe injuries, respectively.
Betting Odds: San Diego favored by 9
Over/Under: 45 points
TV Channel: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Prediction: Kansas City 24, San Diego 21