The Chargers travel to Kansas City this weekend for their first divisional tilt of the 2021 season.
After just two games, who could have ever guessed that the Raiders and Broncos would be atop the division at 2-0 while the Chiefs and Chargers would be fighting to avoid a 1-2 start and a trip to the bottom of the AFC West?
That’s a real possibility for either of these teams and while a loss on Sunday wouldn’t necessarily spell a doomed season entirely, it’s definitely not how anyone with playoff aspirations wants to begin their road to the postseason.
With plenty of intriguing storylines, themes, and matchups in Sunday’s game, here are the three things I’ll be watching the closest following kickoff in Arrowhead.
1.) The premiere matchup on Sunday is between Derwin James and Travis Kelce
Derwin James introduced himself to the Chiefs as a rookie in 2018 when he helped the Chargers top KC in Arrowhead for the first time since the 2013 season. In that matchup, he held Kelce to 61 yards on seven catches. In their week one matchup, James’ first regular season game in the NFL, Kelce had just one catch for six yards.
While James wasn’t on Kelce for every route he ran during those two games, he still certainly played a role in limiting him and that offense as a whole. This matchup will have a spotlight placed on it from the first whistle until the last. Buckle up.
Derwin James: The highest-graded safety in the NFL (89.9) pic.twitter.com/Tb7zwVwqGF— PFF (@PFF) September 20, 2021
2.) Chiefs could be a surprising “get-right” game for the Chargers
The Chargers are one of nine teams who are currently averaging 400.0 yards of offense per game through the first two weeks of the season. However, they’re the only team among those nine who isn’t averaging at least 24.5 points per game. The Bolts are averaging just 18.5. That’s almost a full touchdown less than what they should be averaging so far.
This is also similar to where the offense was a year ago. A high-powered unit that couldn’t figure out how to finish on a consistent basis.
In this week’s matchup, which theme will continue? With the Chargers’ inept red zone offense continue to be just that or will they find a way to score a season-high mark against a defense allowing 469.0 yards of offense and 32.5 points per game?
Find out on the next episode of Chargers Football.
3.) Can the offense clean up the penalties against an intimidating opponent?
The Chargers amassed an insane 12 penalties against the Cowboys that sent them backwards for a total of 99 yards. Eight of those penalties came in the second quarter which made that period seem like it would never end.
Of those 12 flags, two of them brought back touchdowns which ended up being the difference by a wide margin last Sunday. The Chargers’ mistakes allowed the Cowboys to keep things close enough to give Greg Zuerlein’s leg a shot at the win and that’s exactly what happened.
While every team should train and prepare for each week’s opponent like it’s the Super Bowl, you can’t help but think there’s somewhat of an intimidation factor here. I mean, they’re playing against a team that has actually played in back-to-back Super Bowls and they’re also a team that you historically have a hard time beating in the first place. Mistakes will be made, but if the Chargers can manage to commit just a fraction of last week’s penalties, I think they’ll be in a much better place by the end of this one.