KANSAS CITY, MO – Week 15 wastes little time getting time before serving up one of the most intriguing matchups of the week. Rife with playoff implications, the contest pits the 10-3 Los Angeles Chargers against the 11-2 Chiefs; in Kansas City. That last part is important as the Chiefs already hold the advantage. That is the result of the Chiefs opening night victory over the Chargers in L.A.
Patrick Mahomes is not only in the MVP conversation, he is the current favorite. This in his first year as the starter following a rookie season that saw him sit behind Alex Smith. Mahomes made the decision to trade with Washington look good a long time ago, but the award would make it look genius. More important than the likelihood of who wins what individual awards, the Chiefs priority is to finally make it to a conference championship game for the first time since 1993. In their 10 postseason appearances since, the Chiefs have gone one-and-done nine times. The lone exception coming in 2012 when they beat the Brian Hoyer led Texans 30-0.
First, they have to take on a Charger team that ranks eighth in yard-per-game and seventh in scoring. That would me a damper for a normal quarterback, and Baltimore had him stumped initially last week, but Patrick Mahomes has proven up to the task. Kareem Hunt replacement — who Hunt actually replaced last year — Spencer Ware looks unlikely to suit up with a hamstring injury. That means Chiefs retread Charcandrick West and Miami Dolphin-castoff, Damien Williams. Dynamic weapon Tyreek Hill is dealing with wrist and heel injuries but appears healthy enough to play. He and Travis Kelce, who has been on a tear, give Mahomes plenty to work with.
The Chargers also have injury woes. Starting tailback Melvin Gordon is questionable to start the week. He has missed the last two contests, both wins, and three games overall. His usual understudy, Austin Ekeler, has already been ruled out with a nerve damage in his neck on top of a concussion. This means Los Angeles could be down to their third- and forth-string running backs tonight. Luckily Keenan Allen has repeated 2016 and is on another late-season heater. He should be in for a heavy workload against a Chiefs secondary that plays better than perceived; especially in the noise of Arrowhead.
Quietly in the MVP race himself, Philip Rivers sets out to exercise some demons; his Chargers are on a nine-game skid against their division rival. Looking to make it to the postseason for the first time since 2013 – just five appearances since 2004 – Los Angeles has quite the obstacle in their immediate path. Defense might be close to optional in this one, though both teams are better in that regard than one might think. It is week 15 so no team is completely healthy – just ask Washington – but the injuries at running back for both teams will almost certainly put the game on the shoulders of these two stud signal callers.
Still, Thursday games can be lackluster slugfests. Luckily, Kansas City safety Eric Berry making his 2018 debut should add some extra buzz to the atmosphere. Los Angeles edge rusher Joey Bosa returned to the Chargers defense a couple of weeks ago and seems to be back to himself as well. Despite the excitement those two bring, this game is about these two offenses and their prolific quarterbacks. One looking to cement his legacy, the other just building his. The Chargers have struggled to sell out home games, but look like a tough out in the playoffs. Kansas City seems to have finally found an offense that will not disappear in the playoffs. Get your popcorn ready; this should be fun.
Prediction: Philip Rivers struggles early, rallies, but falls short. Chiefs roll on.
Final Score: 33-30 Chiefs