(CBSLA) — The Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) aren’t running away with the AFC West this season. Even so, the Los Angeles Chargers (4-6) aren’t really trying to catch them either. Three wins separate all four teams in the division. And it’s not clear if anything will change when the Chiefs and Chargers match up Monday night in Mexico City.
The Chiefs come in as only 3.5-point favorites, and it’s not hard to figure out why. Larry Hartstein, senior analyst at SportsLine, breaks down the numbers. “You look at Andy Reid in the AFC West, it is unbelievable. 23 of the last 25 he has won straight up against division foes. Nine of the last 10 games, the Chiefs have beaten the Chargers. They have averaged 32 points in the last six meetings.”
With Patrick Mahomes back under center, the Chiefs offense quickly returned to form. Mahomes went 36-50 for 446 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to the Tennessee Titans. He was sure to fold in a few highlight-reel plays to show that his knee is healthy enough for him to be on the field.
The Chargers defense hasn’t allowed a 300-yard passer since the Titans’ Ryan Tannehill lit them up for 312 yards and three touchdowns in Week 7. But they do allow completions at a high rate, and have all season. “The Chargers come in allowing 71% completions, as Hartstein points out. “Patrick Mahomes, he says he can throw the ball 100 yards in Mexico City, he probably won’t have to, but obviously going to have a big night.”
The Chargers’ best and only defense against Mahomes may be the pass rush, particularly defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Bosa has 8.5 sacks on the season, and Ingram has 3.5 in his last two games. Pressuring Mahomes, of course, can lead to highlights rather than mistakes.
The problem with the Chiefs has been and remains their defense. The Titans’ Derrick Henry just exploited them for 188 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Minnesota Vikings back Dalvin Cook put up a combined 116 yards. And Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones came alive for a combined 219 yards. And that’s just in the last three games.
Leaning on the running game could lead the Chargers to a win. They will attempt to unleash Melvin Gordon, whose 22 carries last week against the Oakland Raiders added up to 108 yards, and he has looked good the last couple weeks. But injuries upfront could hinder them in the run game, and pose issues for Philip Rivers in the passing game as well.
“The bigger issue is what is going to happen with that Chargers offensive line,” according to Hartstein. “They gave up five sacks last week to Oakland, which does not have a great pass rush. Rivers was intercepted three times. If he doesn’t have Russell Okung and Sam Tevi, his two tackles, and they are both in doubt for this game, plus he lost his center Pouncey who is on IR for the whole season, it could be a long night if that offensive line is not healthy.”
The Chargers play the Chiefs on Monday night @ 5:15 PT in Mexico City.