Game day is just about here and like all of you, I truly cannot wait to see the Chargers and Chiefs do battle under the lights of primetime.
The Chiefs are riding a six-game win streak while the Bolts are winners of their last two. Each team possesses one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL along with a host of star power surrounding them. The winner of this game will take sole possession of first place in the AFC West with three games to go.
The Chargers already beat the Chiefs once this year back in week three, but neither of these teams should be considered the same clubs that they were well over two months ago.
It’s going to be one heck of a game.
As always, here are the three things I’ll be watching for when the Chargers host the Chiefs on Thursday Night Football.
1.) How will the Chargers help Trey Pipkins if Rashawn Slater fails to return from the reserve/COVID-19 list?
As of Wednesday morning, the Chargers have not activated Slater off the COVOD-19 list, meaning Trey Pipkins is firmly in line to start at left tackle against the Chiefs. So in this moment, the projected starting lineup on the offensive line is (from left to right): Trey Pipkins, Matt Feiler, Corey Linsley, Michael Schofield, and Storm Norton.
During his presser on Tuesday, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi discussed the potential reality of Pipkins starting and I can’t say it was the most...sterling...of endorsements.
You can check out the exact quote in the tweet below.
#Chargers plan w/o Rashawn Slater?— Taylor Bisciotti (@TaylorBisciotti) December 15, 2021
OT Trey Pipkins: 2019 3rd rd pick
OC Joe Lombardi said:
“Obviously, we’re gonna miss Rashawn, but we trust Trey to go in there & do the job,” Lombardi said. “We’ll give him help when appropriate, but I think he’ll be ready to go.”
You can probably expect plenty of chips from the running backs and likely a number of play calls that move Justin Herbert away from the left side of the line. There are too many mismatches the Chiefs can exploit against Trey Pipkins and I for one am not looking forward to seeing how Andy Reid decides to take advantage of that new shortcoming.
2.) Will Josh Palmer see an increase in snaps following his performance against the Giants?
With Keenan Allen stranded on the reserve/COVID-19 list over the weekend, Josh Palmer got the nod to start opposite Mike Williams against the Giants. He not only went on to score his second career touchdown on five catches, but he also received a team-high seven targets. If that doesn’t tell you that both the coaching staff and Herbert have plenty of confidence in him, then I don’t know what does.
Against the Chiefs, I’d like to see the rookie get some increased opportunities if possible. Of course Kansas City’s defense will being keying on both Allen and Mike Williams, which means there could easily be several moments were a third wideout needs to make a play. I’d much rather see Palmer get lion’s share of the snaps for three-wideout sets over Jalen Guyton, but we’ll see if the Chargers feel his speed might be necessary for them to pull this game out.
In the end, I just want to see the rookie get rewarded and if that means allowing him to play a role in a massive game such as this, then so be it.
3.) Can Michael Davis continue his stellar play for one more week?
Against the Giants, Davis had his best all-around game of the season. Yes it was against a bad team, but he was still guarding talented players in Kenny Golladay and Sterling Shepard. He recorded a season-high four pass breakups and looked every bit like the player the Chargers expected to get when they signed him to a new contract this past offseason.
Just like the Chiefs are a new team compared to week three, Davis will also have to look like a new player after he graded out as the worst Chargers cornerback against Kansas City. Per PFF, he ended that game allowing four of seven targets for 60 yards and a touchdown while finishing with a 45.6 overall game grade. That also included an abysmal 37.9 tackling mark.
If Asante Samuel Jr. doesn’t return in time, either, Tevaughn Campbell will get another start opposite Davis. It’s something that has gotten lost through the past two months, but Campbell actually played well against the Chiefs in week three. He had a team-high 78.3 coverage grade while finishing with the second-highest game grade on defense (77.1), behind only Joey Bosa (79.3).