At 5-4, the beat up and battered Chargers are staring down a .500 record with the high-flying Chiefs coming to town for Sunday Night Football.
Even with the deck seemingly stacked against them, I don’t necessarily expect this to be a blood bath the way many others likely view it. Herbert always let’s that inner dog in him out when he’s playing under the bright lights of primetime and I don’t think that will change this week. He’ll keep his team in this one. One way or another.
Below are three things I’ll be watching closely when these teams take the field in Sunday night.
1.) Can Justin Herbert get back to throwing multiple touchdowns?
Herbert kicked off the 2022 season with back-to-back games of three touchdowns passes against the Raiders and Chiefs. In the seven games since, he’s thrown multiple touchdowns just twice, including one game with zero scores against when he faced the notable Broncos defense.
If the Chargers are able to get either one of Mike Williams or Keenan Allen back in time to play against the Chiefs, I like Herbert to get back into the end zone on more than one occasion. If neither return, let’s hope we’re not treated to a repeat of the second half from this past Sunday.
2.) How much will Tyeler Davison play? Will David Moa be elevated to the active roster for Sunday?
On Monday, Brandon Staley told members of the media that they were going to “mine the NFL” to find help at the defensive tackle spot. True to what he said, the Chargers went out and signed two new defensive tackles in veteran Tyeler Davison and 26-year old David Moa.
Davison has 86 starts to his name over the past seven season between the Saints and the Falcons. He’s always been a solid contributor but has never blown anyone away with his stats. If he can be just that — solid — than I think the Chargers will be able to get by just fine.
Moa has much less experience through the first two years of his professional career, but has decent size and his age is something the Bolts can utilize if he ends up developing at a fast rate. He has just four games played under his belt with his lone NFL start coming late in the 2021 season.
I fully expect Davison to start for the Chargers in their base defense, but it remains to be seen just how often they put out that front against a Chiefs offense leading the league in passing yards. When it comes down to it, that may not be all that often, so I expect Davison to give Sebastian Joseph-Day the much-needed breather he’ll likely earn in this divisional tilt.
As for Moa, I see him being elevated to the active roster ahead of game time but if he plays, I expect it to be single digit snaps at the most.
3.) How healthy will the Chiefs receivers be by Sunday night?
On the Chiefs Wednesday injury report, wide receivers Mecole Hardman, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Marquez Valdez-Scantling were all non-participants due to an illness/abdomen injury, a concussion, and an illness, respectively.
All three sitting out for whatever reason is never a sight a team wishes to see, but it’s still early enough that plenty could happen between now and Sunday. If I had to guess, Smith-Schuster is the one most at risk of missing this week as the league/teams have been much more cautious this season when it comes to handling head injuries.
The team’s fourth through sixth wide receivers are currently Kadarius Toney, Skyy Moore, and Justin Watson. All three are explosive and dynamic athletes but are still certainly a step from their top three.
If any of them are missing in week one, the Chargers secondary will relish the opportunity to line up against backups and force Mahomes to make his plays while using the receiver is isn’t used to throwing to in practice every week.
UPDATE: As I was hitting send, the Chiefs announced that Mecole Hardman will be placed on IR with an abdomen injury. So heading into Friday, we know of at least one receiver who will not be suiting up for the Chiefs in week 11.