The Chargers will step into raucous Arrowhead Stadium tonight to face the Chiefs in what should be the most-watched game through the 2022 season’s first eight weeks. While many can see this game going either way, those at DraftKings Sportsbook have the Chiefs as four-point favorites with an over/under set at 54 points.
Now let’s be clear, there’s a million things worth watching closely in this game, but if I did more than three, we’d be here all day. So, with some help from our very own Matthew Stanley, here are the three things we’ll be watching for the closest once things get kicked off in Kansas City.
1.) How will the secondary matchup up with Kansas City’s pass-catchers?
Peterson: The Chiefs don’t have Tyreek Hill anymore and I can’t express how much relief that should bring the Chargers fan base.
However, despite their latest performance being against one of the worst secondaries in the entire league in Arizona, the Chiefs showed they aren’t going to skip a beat when it comes to lighting up the scoreboard.
With three new faces among Patrick Mahomes roster of playmakers — all with varying skillsets — I’m quite intrigued to see exactly how the Chargers defense chooses to matchup on Thursday night.
Juju Smith-Schuster seems like the team’s WR1 from an experience and ability perspective while Marquez Valdez-Scantling and Skyy Moore are more in line with vertical threats that can pressure the back end on any given play. Then, one of the lone returners to this group is Mecole Hardman, also another speedy receiver that now suddenly one of the veterans of the group.
With the Chargers waiting up until game time to see if J.C. Jackson will play or not, one would assume the team has two plans — one with and one without Jackson — when it comes to mitigating these playmakers.
Should Jackson play, I believe he’d be tasked with shadowing Smith-Schuster. He is the team’s most well-rounded wideout and him being erased from the field would certainly give the Chargers a leg up. If that’s the case, I would expect Asante Samuel Jr. and Bryce Callahan to contend with Moore and Hardman while Michale Davis draws MVS due to their speed and size matching up well on the outside.
Then of course, Derwin James will do his thing against Travis Kelce since that seems to work out quite well every time these two teams meet. Check out Daniel Popper’s tweet below to see the receiving splits for Travis Kelce when James is on/off the field through their pair of matchups in 2021.
The Friday Notebook is live on a Wednesday!— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) September 14, 2022
Lots of nuggets and tidbits on how #Chargers will prepare for Chiefs offense, including this wild stat on Derwin James vs. Travis Kelce last season. https://t.co/iitrkg7U0D pic.twitter.com/0qIYb4fHAQ
2.) Can Mike Williams bounce back from his week one performance against a middling Chiefs secondary?
Peterson: On a season-opening Sunday that saw plenty of lame duck performances by fantasy-relevant players, Mike Williams unfortunately finished the game against the Raiders with stat line that might as well have quacked back at you.
The team’s leading receiver from a year ago didn’t record his first reception until the fourth quarter and ended the day with just two catches for 10 yards. Now, the Raiders did their best to limit the Chargers’ attempts at hot plays down the field and second-year cornerback Nate Hobbs played a heck of a game against the much-taller Williams. But at the end of the day, the Chargers are paying Williams a lot of money to overcome these factors, especially when Keenan Allen gets knocked out of the game.
The Chiefs secondary just lost first-round rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie for at least a month after he was placed on IR. That leaves Rashad Fenton, second-year standout L’Jarius Sneed, and seventh-round rookie Jaylen Watson. While Watson is far-and-away the weak link, Sneed is coming off a game against the Cardinals where he earned an elite 90.2 overall grade, including a 90.2 grade in coverage. Fenton had overall and coverage grades of 64.7 and 65.4, respectively, so you can see they’ve got an high-end defender paired with a couple middling performers (Watson doesn’t even have a legitimate player page on PFF’s website).
Sneed very well could end up shadowing Williams. If that doesn’t end up being the case, he’ll need to swiftly capitalize on his mismatches when given the chance.
3.) The Quarterback Duel
Stanley: Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert are two of the best and most exciting quarterbacks in the NFL. They both have extremely powerful and accurate arms, and both can make things happen on the fly when plays break down.
Mahomes lit up the stat sheet in week one by completing 77% of his passes en route to 360 passing yards and five passing touchdowns. Herbert also had a successful first week with a 76.5% completion percentage on his way to 279 yards and a trio of touchdowns. He managed those notable stats all before the offense essentially fizzled for the entire fourth quarter.
This game might simply come down to who can find the most success against two good defenses in primetime. Whichever way the game goes, this will be an exciting battle between two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and we should all try to enjoy it the best we can, regardless of who ends up winning.
(But of course Go Chargers, baby!)
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.