Chargers vs. Chiefs games always seem to take years off the end of my life and Joel’s prediction for this game is more of the same. I asked him five questions about Sunday’s game and these are his answers:
1. Alex Smith has looked like a different player through two games. Is it a difference in scheme, surrounding talent, or just Alex feeling the heat from Mahomes?
There's some debate over whether something is different or not. I think Alex Smith is being more aggressive this season. Ultimately though the sample size is too small because if he doesn't hit those two long throws in the Patriots game we're probably not talking about this, right? There does seem to be more urgency with him. Maybe it's Patrick Mahomes. Maybe it's this being essentially a contract year. Maybe it's that they have long ball weapons like Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt who is a good pass catcher. Whatever it is, the Chiefs offense is better because of it.
2. Andy Reid running backs that get the majority of touches in his offense always tend to look impressive, but Kareem Hunt looks special. Is he playing over his head or is this the kind of production we should expect to see going forward?
He's playing over his head in the sense that I don't expect him to get 3 TDs and 250 yards every game. He will come back to Earth at some point. You said it though, "Andy Reid running backs". He has a history of his backs playing well, especially those that can catch passes. Jamaal Charles got 70 passes in this offense four years ago. Kareem Hunt has an incredible sense of balance and he has forced the most missed tackles in the NFL this season. I will say that he's as advertised there as he was one of the most elusive backs in college. He is playing out of his mind at this moment and that will settle down at some point but, yeah, there's something special about him.
3. Are the Chiefs actively trying to get the ball in Travis Kelce's hands more often this year or were the direct snaps and shovel passes an aberration in week 1?
The Patriots have shut Kelce down before so maybe in that game they did those shovel passes to him (four of them!) to get him involved. The shovel pass against the Eagles was a great example of what makes the Chiefs offense tough. Earlier in the game, the Chiefs had run a jet sweep to Tyreek Hill who burned the Eagles for a first down. The next time, Hill came around the back for the jet sweep but they faked it which froze the defenders on the edge and then pitched it to Kelce on the shovel pass up the middle for a touchdown. There's a reason for everything they do. Kelce and Hill are chess pieces that Reid is setting up.
4. What would it take for Patrick Mahomes to get on the field this year? Would it take an injury to Smith or could just a run of bad games do it?
It would take an injury. I don't see the Chiefs being bad enough where they would give up on Alex Smith. He has missed a couple of games in Kansas City so it's possible Mahomes is on the field. It's also possible Smith stays healthy and plays all 16 games. I would bet on the latter. If Smith takes them to the AFC Championship game or the Super Bowl, this situation becomes a lot more interesting in 2018.
5. What's your score prediction for the game?
I'll take the Chiefs over the Chargers, 24-23. The Chargers will keep it close in the fourth as they do but the Chiefs are the better team and will pull it out.