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By Rick Brown
The Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers will finish the regular season the way it began – by facing off in an AFC West showdown. However, their seasons have gone in opposite directions. Since the Chiefs’ unlikely overtime win in week one against the Chargers, the Chiefs have earned an 11-4 record and a playoff berth. Meanwhile, the Chargers have had less success with a 5-10 record. Injuries and the inability to close out games have plagued the Chargers all season.
The first major injury the Chargers suffered was when Keenan Allen was injured during the season opener. Unfortunately, it did not stop there, as Danny Woodhead and Manti Te’o were also lost for the season. In all, the Chargers have more than 15 players listed on the Injury Reserve (IR) as the team heads into week 17. This rash of injuries did not help a team that has struggled to close out games throughout the season and will end the year with a losing record.
In contrast, the Kansas City Chiefs have enjoyed a winning season and can still win the AFC West and a first-round bye. For the team to win the AFC West crown, the Chiefs would need help from the Denver Broncos. The Broncos are playing the division leading Oakland Raiders in Denver on Sunday. If the Broncos and Chiefs both win then the Chiefs will earn the team’s first divisional crown since 2010.
For more insight, we spoke with NFL ON CBS analyst Trent Green for his take on the matchup.
Kansas City Chiefs vs San Diego Chargers – January 1, 4:25 p.m. ET – CBS
CBS Local: What can the San Diego Chargers do to contain emerging superstars, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill?
Trent Green: Well, the big thing with Tyreek Hill is the Chiefs utilize him in a number of ways. He lines up at wide receiver and running back as well as in the return game. To stop Hill in the return game, I would not kick it to him. When Hill is on the field, the Chiefs like to use him in a lot of misdirection plays. The Chargers will need to try and spy a defensive player on Hill all the time.
To stop Travis Kelce, there are a couple of different ways to do it. You can put a big body over him and bang him off the line of scrimmage. The Chargers can try and slow him down when he gets into his routes. The Chargers can also cover Kelce with a safety, but the only problem with that is he is so big. Kelce is 6’5″, and it is hard to find a safety or a corner tall enough to match Kelce up. The best way to slow Kelce down, is to bang him off the line and cover him and to try and disrupt the timing of his routes.
CBS Local: How do teams, such as the Chargers, prepare for the last game of the season when the team has been eliminated from the playoffs?
Trent Green: Besides winning the game, which is most important, players are under continual evaluation. Not only from their own team, but from the other 31 teams in the league. The number one most important thing is to win a football game. The second most important is for players to get on tape to be evaluated by their own organization. So if the Chargers did make a change and go another direction, then there would be tape for the next staff or the incoming staff. If a player moves onto another team, the player has to make sure they put on a quality performance, so that the rest of the league sees what kind of player they are.
CBS Local: How can the Chiefs use this game against the Chargers to prepare for the upcoming playoffs?
Trent Green: It is important for the Chiefs to keep momentum. This game will be played at the same time as the Oakland Raiders game and there is an outside chance the team could still win the division. If the Chiefs win the division, the team will also secure the second seed in the AFC playoffs. This benefit comes with a bye week and at least one home game. The Chiefs need to look at it as any other game and not get caught up in scoreboard watching. It will be important for the Chiefs to continue to improve on all phases of the game. Players should not approach this week as, ‘hey, we are already in the playoffs,’ but as a team building on success of the season while going into the playoffs.