By Dave Thomas
With a win on Sunday at Kansas City almost a necessity for the San Diego Chargers, the team’s health going into Arrowhead Stadium for this early season AFC West tilt is relatively good.
San Diego (2-1), which got taken behind the woodshed a weekend ago in a 27-3 loss at home to Atlanta, looks to rebound against a Chiefs squad that may have saved its season in last weekend’s overtime victory in New Orleans.
The teams, who split a pair of games a season ago (home team won both), are jockeying for position in an AFC West race that is expected to go down to the wire. While San Diego holds an early one-game lead in the division, no one is by any means ready to write off either Oakland (1-2), Denver (1-2), or the Chiefs (1-2) for that matter.
In last season’s trip to Arrowhead, San Diego appeared to be in position to secure the win, however quarterback Philip Rivers’ late fourth quarter fumble allowed the game to go into overtime, a game which the Chiefs prevailed in the extra session.
With the Chiefs sporting a formidable running attack to date (nearly averaging 192 yards a game on the ground), San Diego will look to stop the run and put the game in Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel’s hands. Coming into the game, Cassel has three TD passes, however four picks to his name too.
For San Diego, one interesting angle to focus in on will be how much running back Ryan Mathews touches the ball.
Mathews returned to play last Sunday after recovering from a broken clavicle suffered in the preseason opener against Green Bay. Mathews, however, may have cost the Chargers some major momentum when he fumbled the ball inside Atlanta’s five yard line in the second quarter, the Chargers trailing 6-0 at the time. The wind seemed to be taken out of San Diego’s sails at that point, as the Falcons went on a long scoring drive to take command of the game.
While Mathews appears to be healthy, San Diego head coach Norv Turner hinted during the week that the third-year running back out of Fresno State may see a few less touches in key spots going forward. If that’s the case, look for Curtis Brinkley or former Chief Jackie Battle to possibly see more action this Sunday.
Kaeding Saddled With Groin Injury
Even though San Diego is relatively healthy going into the contest, the Chargers did announce Friday that place kicker Nate Kaeding was out for this game due to a groin injury (suffered in practice). Kaeding, one of the most accurate kickers going in the NFL, missed all but one play of last season with a torn ACL.
As a result, Nick Novak, who filled in for Kaeding all of last season (went 27-of-34 on field goals in 15 games), will again handle the kicking duties this Sunday.
Meantime, the Chargers listed cornerback Quentin Jammer (hand) and linebacker Antwan Barnes (knee) as probable, while cornerback Shareece Wright continues to miss play with a foot injury.
So, Charger fans will likely be wondering which San Diego team shows up in Kansas City this Sunday.
If it is the one from the first two games of the season, the Bolts could very well be on their way to their third win in four games.
If, however, it is the team that left the field last Sunday after a three-hour beating at the hands of Atlanta, then the AFC West race just got even more interesting.
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Dave Thomas is a freelance writer covering all things Chargers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.