By Dave Thomas
Riding a five-game losing streak, the San Diego Chargers will look to stem the tide and cool off the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs, as the two old AFC rivals tangle Sunday afternoon in San Diego. The Chargers, who own sole possession of last place in the AFC West, will look to stop a Kansas City (4-5) squad that is on a roll having won three straight games.
In their last two games, the Chiefs have outscored the opposition (Detroit and Denver) by a combined 74-23 count. Meanwhile, San Diego (2-7) continues to go in the opposite direction, with its most recent setback a 22-19 defeat at the hands of visiting Chicago on Nov. 9. With the bye week in the rear-view mirror, the Chargers and their fans hope this team can finish the final seven games strong. Even though San Diego is mathematically still in the AFC playoff hunt, the chances of it getting one of the six spots remain slim at best.
Kansas City Will Prove Tough Test
It is no surprise that battles between the Chargers and Chiefs have been downright physical over the years. With San Diego holding a slim 55-54-1 lead in the all-time series, it would be an understatement to say these two teams know a little something about one another. Earlier in the season, Kansas City lost star running back Jamaal Charles to a season-ending knee injury, perhaps casting doubt on if this team could go anywhere in the AFC playoffs.
Despite losing one of the league’s top rushers, the Chiefs have found other ways to move the ball. With QB Alex Smith (2,173 yards passing, 10 TD’s) finding wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (583 yards receiving, two TDs) and tight end Travis Kelce (574 yards receiving, three TDs), the Chiefs have been doing a better job of moving the ball through the air in recent games. As for the Chargers, while quarterback Philip Rivers has been putting up some huge yardage numbers game after game (passed for 3,033 yards, 19 TDs to date this season), he has also been running for his life at times, having been sacked 21 times in nine games.
With a banged up and oftentimes ineffective offensive line during much of the season, San Diego hopes to have several O-Line players back for this Sunday’s game. They include tackle King Dunlap (ankle), offensive guard Orlando Franklin (knee) and offensive guard D.J. Fluker (concussion).
If the Chargers want to have even the remotest of hopes of making a run in these final seven games, it all starts with knocking off the Chiefs. A loss to Kansas City this Sunday and San Diego can further position itself for next spring’s NFL Draft.
King Dunlap, tackle (ankle)
Kyle Emanuel, outside linebacker (concussion)
Orlando Franklin, offensive guard (knee)
Denzel Perryman, inside linebacker (biceps)
Darrell Stuckey, defensive back (hamstring)
Jason Verrett, corner (groin)
Malcom Floyd, wide receiver (shoulder)
D.J. Fluker, offensive guard (concussion)
Antonio Gates, tight end (knee, hip)
Ladarius Green, tight end (ankle)
Corey Liuget, defensive end (foot)
Manti Te’o, linebacker (ankle)
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.