Kansas City Star Chiefs beat writer Terez Paylor has scouted the Chiefs' next opponent, the Los Angeles Chargers, and in this video he provides four keys to a Chiefs victory, as well as a prediction for Sunday's showdown at the StubHub Center. David Eulitt deulitt@kcstar.com
Kansas City Star Chiefs beat writer Terez Paylor has scouted the Chiefs' next opponent, the Los Angeles Chargers, and in this video he provides four keys to a Chiefs victory, as well as a prediction for Sunday's showdown at the StubHub Center. David Eulitt deulitt@kcstar.com

Red Zone

The Chiefs and NFL by beat writer Terez Paylor

Red Zone

Chiefs-Chargers scouting report, key players to watch, and a prediction

By Terez A. Paylor

tpaylor@kcstar.com

September 22, 2017 1:49 PM

Here’s The Star’s weekly game preview detailing the key players and matchups for the Kansas City Chiefs’ game against the Los Angeles Chargers at 3:25 p.m. Sunday at StubHub Center. The game will air on CBS (Ch. 5 in Kansas City).

Scheme

Chargers’ coach: Anthony Lynn (0-2) is in his first year on the job. Lynn, 48, has a background in offense. A longtime running backs coach and former NFL running back, Lynn spent last season as the Buffalo Bills’ interim head coach and offensive coordinator.

Offense: Ken Whisenhunt, 55, is in his third year as the Chargers’ offensive coordinator. This is his second stint. The Chargers rank ninth in the NFL in passing offense (254.0 yards per game) and 31st in the NFL in rushing offense (54.0). They predominantly go three-wide and use multiple tight ends. They have also passed at a 67 percent clip through two games.

Defense: Gus Bradley, 51, is in his first year as the Chargers’ defensive coordinator. He spent the last four years as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ head coach. The Chargers technically run a 4-3 with 3-4 personnel –– just like his mentor, Seattle coach Pete Carroll –– but they’ve spent most of the last two games in a 4-2 with five defensive backs. The Chargers rank 12th in the NFL in passing defense (203.0 yards per game) and 26th in the NFL in rushing defense (125.5). They also rank 10th in the NFL in sacks with six.

Special teams: George Stewart is in his first year as the Chargers’ special teams coach. Their new kicker, Younghoe Koo, has missed game-winning field goals in each of the first two games. Drew Kaser has dropped five punts inside the 20. Austin Ekeler has only managed a 16.3-yard average on three returns. Meanwhile, the Chargers are surrendering 26.8 yards per kick (fourth-highest in the league) and 11.5 yards per punt (seventh-highest in the league). There’s a chance for the Chiefs to make some hay here.

Four keys to a Chiefs victory

1. Playmakers, giddyup

First, off the Dolphins were able to run the ball against the Chargers last week; Jay Ajayi became the first back to rush for over 100 yards against them in 17 straight games. If the Chiefs can’t replicate that success on the ground, I expect them to air it out and get it to their playmakers. That’s where Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce and Ty Hill can shine; the Chargers don’t always tackle well, so there should be some real run-after-the-catch opportunities in this one.

2. Threaten the deep-to-intermediate portions of the field

The Chargers have done well against the pass this season but their first two opponents –– the Broncos and Dolphins –– don’t have the caliber of coach-quarterback combination the Chiefs do. That said, I expect coach Andy Reid to dial up some effective downfield concepts against a defensive that prioritizes stopping the run, and I expect quarterback Alex Smith to keep airing it out like he has far this season. The secondary is solid but not imposing, and there will be some shots there.

3. Corral Gordon

Don’t be fooled by the Chargers’ woeful ground game thus far –– when this offense is operating at peak efficiency, it’s because Melvin Gordon III is in a rhythm. After receiving a total of 27 carries the first two games, the Chargers would be wise to feed him more. The Chiefs had a tough time defending the Chargers’ ground attack out of passing sets last year, and while the Chiefs’ defensive front looks much improved, they should at least attempt to do the same this year.

4. Don’t get caught up in the hype

Receiver Keenan Allen is an oustanding route runner who explodes out of his breaks. He does drop passes occasionally but is super competitive and likes to yap. He talked trash to Marcus Peters last year, even when he was hurt, and I expect him to try to get into Peters’ head again. The Chiefs need Peters to keep his cool. Tight end Travis Kelce has also received a personal foul in the Chiefs’ last three games, and he needs to get that under control. Opponents will continue to provoke him for the foreseeable future.

Four Chargers to watch

No. 17, QB Philip Rivers, 35, 6-5, 228, 14th season

Ranked No. 73 on the NFL’s top 100 list for 2017. Pro Bowler in 2016. Very competitive. Is not overly elusive in the pocket but can zip it in there from different platforms. Loves to go up top and will also throw up plenty of 50/50 balls. Trusts his arm too much and often tries to force throws into tight windows, which results in interceptions. Had thrown two or more touchdown passes in 10 straight games before Sunday’s loss to Miami.

No. 28, RB Melvin Gordon III, 24, 6-1, 215, third season

Pro Bowler in 2016. Flashes premier burst with very good elusiveness. Tough runner who does not go down easily. Has improved his vision and seems more comfortable running out of the gun than he was as a rookie. Also has some receiving chops, particularly after the catch, and reliable hands. But he isn’t a great route runner.

No. 99, DE Joey Bosa, 22, 6-5, 280, second season

Ranked No. 100 on the NFL’s top 100 list for 2017. All-day sucker who plays with great effort. Has power in his hands to jolt offensive linemen; uses that, plus technique and enough speed to consistently generate pressure. Closes on quarterbacks quickly. Diagnoses the run quickly and holds the edge. Sheds blocks well.

No. 26, CB Casey Hayward, 28, 5-11, 192, sixth season

Ranked No. 64 on the NFL’s top 100 list for 2017. Pro Bowler and all-pro in 2016, when he led the NFL in interceptions. Voted Team MVP and Defensive Player of the Year by his teammates in 2016. Good athlete with solid instincts and ball skills. Enjoys press coverage but is only 5-11, so bigger receivers can high-point the ball over him (see: Miami’s DeVante Parker). Adept at zone coverage, too.

Projected Chiefs two-deep depth chart

KEY: Bold=Player to Watch, C=Captain, PB=2016 Pro Bowl, AP=2016 All-Pro, Q=Questionable

QB

No., Name, Ht., Wt., Years

11 Alex Smith (C, PB), 6-4, 220, 13 | 15 Patrick Mahomes, 6-3, 230, R

RB

27 Kareem Hunt, 5-11, 208, R | 35 Charcandrick West, 5-10, 205, 4

FB

42 Anthony Sherman, 5-10, 242, 7

X-WR

17 Chris Conley, 6-3, 205, 3 | 14 Demarcus Robinson, 6-1, 203, 2

Z-WR

10 Tyreek Hill (C, PB), 5-10, 185, 2 | 80 Jehu Chesson, 6-3, 203, R

Y-WR

12 Albert Wilson, 5-9, 200, 4 | 13 De’Anthony Thomas, 5-9, 176, 4

TE

87 Travis Kelce (C, PB, AP), 6-5, 260, 5 | 84 Demetrius Harris, 6-7, 230, 4

LT

72 Eric Fisher, 6-7, 315, 5 | 75 Cameron Erving, 6-5, 313, 3

LG

70 Bryan Witzmann, 6-7, 320, 3 | 79 Parker Ehinger, 6-6, 310, 2

C

73 Zach Fulton, 6-5, 316, 4 | 75 Cameron Erving, 6-5, 313, 3

RG

76 Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, 6-5, 321, 4 | 79 Parker Ehinger, 6-6, 310, 2

RT

71 Mitchell Schwartz (AP), 6-5, 320, 6 | 75 Cameron Erving, 6-5, 313, 3

DEFENSE

LDE

95 Chris Jones, 6-6, 310, 2 | 95 Rakeem Nunez-Roches, 6-2, 307, 3

NT

96 Bennie Logan, 6-2, 315, 5 | 98 Roy Miller III, 6-2, 318, 8

RDE

97 Allen Bailey, 6-3, 288, 7 | 94 Jarvis Jenkins, 6-4, 300, 7

LOLB

50 Justin Houston (C), 6-3, 258, 7 | 51 Frank Zombo, 6-3, 254, 8

WILB

56 Derrick Johnson, 6-3, 242, 13 | 57 Kevin Pierre-Louis, 6-0, 230, 4

MILB

53 Ramik Wilson, 6-2, 237, 3 | 45 Ukeme Eligwe, 6-2, 239, R

ROLB

55 Dee Ford, 6-2, 252, 4 | 92 Tanoh Kpassagnon, 6-7, 280, R

LCB

22 Marcus Peters (PB, AP), 6-0, 197, 3 | 23 Phillip Gaines, 6-0, 193, 4

FS

38 Ron Parker, 6-0, 206, 7 | 21 Eric Murray, 5-11, 199, 2

SS

49 Daniel Sorensen, 6-2, 208, 4 | 30 Steven Terrell, 5-10, 197, 5

NCB

23 Phillip Gaines, 6-0, 193, 4

RCB

39 Terrance Mitchell, 5-11, 190, 4 | 25 Kenneth Acker, 6-0, 195, 4

Projected Chargers two-deep depth chart

KEY: Bold=Player to Watch, C=Captain, PB=2016 Pro Bowl, AP=2016 All-Pro, Q=Questionable, *=See “additional notes” section below for more info on player

OFFENSE

QB

No., Name, Ht., Wt., Years

**17 Philip Rivers (PB), 6-5, 228, 14** | 10 Kellen Clemens, 6-2, 220, 12

RB

**28 Melvin Gordon III (PB), 6-1, 215, 3** | *32 Branden Oliver, 5-8 208, 4

FB

34 Derek Watt, 6-2, 234, 2

WR

*13 Keenan Allen, 6-2, 211, 5 | 15 Dontrelle Inman. 6-3, 205, 4

WR

*16 Tyrell Williams | 15 Dontrelle Inman. 6-3, 205, 4

SLOT WR

*12 Travis Benjamin, 5-10, 175, 6

TE

85 Antonio Gates, 6-4, 255, 15 | *86 Hunter Henry, 6-5, 250, 2

LT

*76 Russell Okung, 6-5, 310, 8 | 78 Mike Schofield, 6-6, 301, 4

LG

*68 Matt Slauson, 6-5, 315, 9 | 78 Mike Schofield, 6-6, 301, 4

C

73 Spencer Pulley, 6-4, 308, 2 | 66 Dan Feeney, 6-4, 305, R

RG

79 Kenny Wiggins, 6-6, 314, 4 | 66 Dan Feeney, 6-4, 305, R

RT

72 Joe Barksdale, 6-5, 326, 7 | 78 Mike Schofield, 6-6, 301, 4

DEFENSE

DE

**99 Joey Bosa, 6-5, 280, 2** | 95 Tenny Palepoi, 6-1, 298, 4

NT

*92 Brandon Mebane, 6-1, 311, 11 | 71 Damion Square, 6-2, 293, 5

DT

94 Corey Liuget, 6-2, 300, 7 | 93 Darius Philon, 6-1, 300, 3

LEO

**54 Melvin Ingram, 6-2, 247, 6** | 40 Chris McCain, 6-5, 236, 3

MIKE

56 Korey Toomer, 6-2, 235, 3 | 50 Hayes Pullard, 6-0, 240, 3

WILL

*57 Jatavis Brown, 5-11, 221, 2 | 58 Nigel Harris, 6-2, 225, R

OTTO

51 Kyle Emanuel, 6-3, 250, 3 | 49 James Onwualu, 6-1, 232, R

LCB

*26 Casey Hayward (PB, AP), 5-11, 192, 6 | 20 Desmond King, 5-10, 201, R

SS

*37 Jahleel Addae, 5-10, 195, 5 | 31 Adrian Phillips, 5-11, 210, 3

FS

33 Tre Boston, 6-1, 205, 4 | 23 Dexter McCoil, 6-4, 220, 2

NCB

*20 Desmond King, 5-10, 201, R

RCB

24 Trevor Williams, 5-11, 191, 2 | 43 Mike Davis, 6-2, 196, R

SPECIAL TEAMS

K

9 Younghoe Koo, 5-10, 195, R

P

8 Drew Kaser, 6-2, 206, 2

KR

30 Austin Ekeler, 5-10, 195, R

PR

12 Travis Benjamin, 5-10, 175, 6

LS

47 Mike Windt, 6-1, 237, 8

Additional game notes

Branden Oliver

is a nice change-of-pace back. He’s small, but he’s quick and elusive. There’s some

Darren Sproles

in him.

This is a good receiving corps.

Travis Benjamin

has tremendous deep speed and is a significant return threat.

Tyrell Williams

is a big body that Philip Rivers trusts.

Antonio Gates

is in his 15th season, but he’s still got game as a red-zone threat. He caught his 112th career touchdown catch last week, the most for a tight end in NFL history, surpassing Chiefs legend Tony Gonzalez.

The Chargers typically bring in former Chiefs tight end

Sean McGrath

when they want to run. He’s also a reliable catcher of the ball.

Hunter Henry

is a very good pass receiver with natural ball skills; he’ll catch a lot of passes in the NFL.

The Chargers have done some offseason work on an offensive line that has been beat up and ineffective the last two seasons.

Russell Okung

slides in a left tackle, while

Matt Slauson

has solidified the left guard position. It’s still not an elite group though, so the Chiefs’ defensive front –– which has been very disruptive –– could eat.

Brandon Mebane

, the nose tackle, is a fire-hydrant nose I kinda like. Stopping the run is his thing.

The Chiefs need to keep an eye on

Melvin Ingram

, who pairs with Bosa to form a nice edge-rushing tandem. He’s got a solid combination of power and athleticism.

Jatavis Brown

can play. He’s little, but he sees the game well and throws his body around. But he’s been targeted in coverage some and opponents have had some success.

Casey Hayward

is a good corner who has come into his own. He’s competitive but bigger receivers can high-point it over him.

Jahleel Addae

is hit-stick player who always attempts to deliver the big blow. Receivers beware.

Prediction: Chiefs 30-24

The winless Chargers are desperate for a victory, so I expect them to throw the kitchen sink at the Chiefs. They can’t start 0-3, with two of those losses at home. They’re a better team than that. Yet I suspect that’s exactly what will happen. Their homefield advantage will likely evaporate because Chiefs fans will storm the place, and the Chiefs are a superior team. They’ve also had the Chargers’ number the last few years. I expect Kansas City to come out ahead in a close, competitive battle.

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