|Week 3 was a rough one for Philip Rivers and the Chargers, who were dismantled by the Falcons. They're hoping to bounce back Sunday in Kansas City against the Chiefs. (AP)|
Chargers at Chiefs -- Week 4
Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City (outdoors, grass)
When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Spread: Chiefs by 1
Forecast: Partly cloudy with a light breeze; projected kickoff temperature: high-70s.
Records: Chargers (Overall: 2-1, AFC West: 1-0); Chiefs (Overall: 1-2, AFC West: 0-0).
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Sept. 25, 2011: Chargers 20, Chiefs 17; Oct. 31, 2011: Chiefs 23, Chargers 20 (OT). Sunday's matchup marks the 105th meeting between the two teams. Series record: Kansas City holds a narrow 52-51-1 edge, although San Diego has won seven of the last nine meetings. At Arrowhead, the Chiefs have won six of the last 10 and hold a 23-17 (.575) all-time advantage.
What matters: The Chargers offense must turn on the power, and the defense needs to stuff the run. San Diego was kept out of the end zone for the first time after 151 straight games last Sunday against the Falcons. The Chargers normally high-powered offense is ranked just 23rd overall. They have rushed an average 98.7 yards per game (ranked 17th) and passed an average of 219.3 yards per game (ranked 23rd). Coach Norv Turner would like the offense to be balanced, but it will likely be pass first. QB Philip Rivers' career stats vs. Kansas City include 259 of 421 passing (61.5) for 3,170 with 17 TDs and 14 INTs. Rivers has four 300-yard performances vs. the Chiefs and the Chargers are 3-1 in those games. The Chiefs offense will be centered on the run. They have averaged a league best 191.7 yards per game on the ground. The Chargers defense has only allowed 67.3 yards per game (ranked fourth).
Who matters: Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles leads the league in rushing (323 yards). Last Sunday, Charles carried the ball 33 times for 233 yards (7.1 avg.), including a franchise-best 91-yard TD. He also caught six passes for 55 yards (9.2 avg.) for a total of 288 all-purpose yards. Chargers K Nate Kaeding cut practice short on Friday with soreness in his groin. Turner said Kaeding will test the injury on Saturday and a decision on whether a roster move is needed will be made at that time. K Nick Novak, who replaced Kaeding last season, boarded the team's flight to Kansas City without the benefit of a contract, according to a tweet by the Chargers team writer. Kaeding did not board the flight, according to a tweet by the North County Times. The kicking game could be critical because both of last year's meetings were decided by a field goal. Kaeding is 7 of 7 this season. Chiefs K Ryan Succop is 8 of 9 and was 6 of 6 last Sunday, a franchise high for a single game. Novak made 27 of 34 attempts (79.4 avg.) in 15 games for the Chargers in 2011.
Key matchups: Chargers LT Mike Harris (undrafted, UCLA) or LT Jared Gaither vs. Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali. Hali led the Chiefs with 12 sacks last season, three of which came against the Chargers. Harris has played LT in each of the first three games in place of Gaither, who has been out since the start of training camp with back spasms. Harris had his worst performance last Sunday. Gaither returned to practice this week but was only limited. He is listed as questionable. Gaither will be expected to go the entire game if he does play, and that may be a bit of a stretch because it was difficult for him to stay in cardiovascular shape while dealing with back pain. RT Jeromey Clary will also have his hands full with OLB Justin Houston, who had three sacks last week including a safety. Houston is in a three-way tie for most sacks ( 9.5) from Week 13 of last season through the first three games of this season.
Injuries of note: CB Shareece Wright (right ankle sprain) is listed as out. Kaeding is officially listed as questionable but did not board the team plane. Gaither (back) and ILB Demorrio Williams (hamstring) are also listed as questionable. OLB Antwan Barnes (knee) and CB Quentin Jammer (hand) are probable.
Inside stuff: For the last two weeks, CB Greg Gatson was called up off the practice squad on Saturday to provide depth because the Chargers only have three healthy corners. OT Reggie Wells was released to make room for Gatson. Wells was then re-signed on Monday and Gatson was waived and re-signed to the practice squad. This scenario would have likely played out again this week if it were not for the injury to Kaeding. The Chargers may not want to expose any other players other than Wells. Therefore, if Novak is signed, Gatson may not be called up. In that scenario, the safeties are prepared to play nickelback in the case of an injury to a CB.
Connections: Chargers FB Le'Ron McClain played for the Chiefs in 2011. ILB Demorrio Williams spent the last four seasons with the Chiefs (2008-11). RB Jackie Battle spent his first five seasons with the Chiefs (2007-11). Gaither played 10 games for the Chiefs last season before he was waived.
Stat you should know: Norv Turner is 22-9 in AFC West games, including 7-3 against the Chiefs. Rivers is 27-10 as a starter vs. the AFC West and 8-4 against the Chiefs.
Record watch: Rivers will start his 100th career and 100th straight game on Sunday. He needs 27 passing yards to become the 63rd QB in NFL history with 25,000. OLB Shaun Phillips has 62.5 career sacks, fourth in team history. Phillips needs three more to tie Lee Williams (65.5) and 4.5 to tie Gary “Big Hands” Johnson.
Looking ahead: A win would give the Chargers a 3-1 start and two road victories within the AFC West. Next week, the Chargers are on the road vs. the Saints (0-3). The following week, they will host the Broncos (1-2). The Chiefs host the Ravens (3-1) next week and then travel to take on the Buccaneers (1-2).
Prediction: Chargers 30, Chiefs 24