John Woz, Jr. | November 18th, 2019
The NFL is striving to extend its reach beyond the United States. The Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs battle in Mexico City to round off the last of five international games for the 2019 season. Monday Night Football has two teams competing for the AFC West. Can the Bolts get the better of the 2018 MVP?
Both teams lost in Week 10. Kansas City has a two-game advantage over Los Angeles in the division. The Chiefs have the No.1 passing game in the league. On the other side of the ball, the Chargers rank 5th against the pass. Monday’s game will be a tactical battle.
Patrick Mahomes provides the main threat for the Chiefs. Mahomes’ ability to evade traffic in a congested pocket is breathtaking. Mahomes isn’t playing to the standards he set in his MVP season of 2018. Pro Football Focus graded Mahomes at 93.2 overall in 2018. Injuries have hampered the Chiefs’ starter this season, and his grade has fallen to 80.0.
Mahomes Passing Stats
Don’t let the grades fool you. The Chiefs’ offense ticks nicely when Mahomes is in the groove. Week 10 was huge for the Chiefs’ quarterback, he was 36-50 with 446 yards and three touchdowns. One of those touchdown passes went to Tyreek Hill, a wide receiver with blistering speed.
The Mahomes-to-Hill combination is a key feature of the Kansas City offense. Hill’s speed gives him the advantage over the cornerback. The Cheetah has been consistent over the last two games, carrying the ball for 297 yards and two rushing touchdowns. This YouTube clip highlights what happens when Mahomes can get the ball downfield. The Vikings had no answers for Hill.
Last week I spoke about the threat from Oakland’s tight end Darren Waller. There’s no letting up for the Bolts in Week 11. Travis Kelce has had a phenomenal season. Kelce’s strength and balance make him a great blocker, but he can also move the chains with good effect. Kelce is one of my favorite players, and his numbers are impressive. The veteran leads the league in targets, receptions and receiving yards for tight ends. The Chargers scouting team ought to pay attention to Kelce’s 100 percent completion record against the Titans (7-7).
Steve Spagnuolo’s defense is tied at 5th in the league with 30 sacks. Emmanuel Ogbah leads the defense with 5.5 sacks. Blake Bell has featured as a second tight end, providing pass protection in the absence of Eric Fisher. Chiefs expect Fisher to play on Monday, and his return is a boost for Spagnuolo.
Harrison Butker has been an asset on Special Teams with a league-high of 98 points.
Chargers Keys to Victory
The Chargers have to get back to doing the basic things right on all phases of the game. Shane Steichen needs his offense to get off to a fast start. Digging holes in the first quarter has been an unwanted trait for the Bolts in recent weeks.
Establishing the run is a key factor the Chargers as the Chiefs have given up yards on the ground. Shane Steichen must give Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler opportunities to move the chains.
The Chargers secondary must remain alert to the threat of Mahomes’ passes. They also need to force turnovers, but they shouldn’t expect Mahomes to turn the ball over. The stats tell you everything you need to know about how Mahomes keeps his offense in play, he has thrown one interception all season. It could be a long day for the Chargers if they get caught out in the backfield.
Ball security has been an issue for Philip Rivers, he must avoid forcing the football on third-down conversions. Rivers has thrown an average of one interception per game. Oakland picked him off three times in Week 10 but that has to change in Mexico City or it sets Mahomes up for another monster day.
Protecting Rivers has been an issue for LA. The offensive line struggled last week when they gave up five sacks. The absence of Russell Okung could play into the hands of the Kansas City pass rush.
Chargers Injury Update
Sam Tevi is out. Okung and Cole Mazza are both questionable.
Chiefs Injury Update
Kendall Fuller and Damien Williams are both questionable.
Monday night’s game in Mexico City will be a challenge at high altitude. Rivers comes into the game under pressure to improve on last week’s performance. Both teams have near-identical 3rd down conversion rates, but the Bolts have the edge in Red Zone conversions. I expected a lot more from Andy Reid‘s team in 2019, they should have a better record than 6-4. The Chiefs will win this game comfortably if Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram do not pressure Mahomes. I predict a final score of Chiefs 24-17 Chargers, based on last week’s results.
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images