Last week was probably the worst of the season for the AFC West. The Chargers notched the only win of the week and it came at the hands of the Chiefs in what turned out to be a very entertaining shootout. Additionally, both the Raiders and Broncos blew leads to lose in heartbreaking fashion to the Titans and Patriots respectively.
This week didn’t get off to the best start as the Raiders blew a 21-7 lead in falling 31-24 to the Dallas Cowboys. Once again the focus of everyone will be on the rematch between the Broncos and Chiefs, this time from Arrowhead Stadium. The Chargers also have a huge matchup that they need to win if they plan on keeping their position amongst the slew of teams fighting for the final playoff position.
The Chargers are amongst a pack of teams tied for the final playoff spot in the AFC. They have a tough test in front of them as the AFC North leading Cincinnati Bengals come to town looking to keep their lead in their division. The Chargers have to be flying high after dropping 41 points on the vaunted Chiefs defense, but it doesn’t get any easier against the Bengals.
The Bengals boast one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL led by the NFL’s leading tackler Vontaze Burfict. Rey Maualuga and James Harrison round out the crew and can put some big hits on anyone. The defensive line continues to be solid, led by Domata Peko, and Terrence Newman and Reggie Nelson are playmakers in the secondary.
The Chargers offense will be tested and Philip Rivers must be on his A-game. The Chargers proved they can score on anyone last week. Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead continue to be the most dangerous options for Rivers, and Antonio Gates is always capable of making the big catches.
On the other end the Bengals boast some serious playmakers in the passing game
in A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, and Tyler Eifert. Andy Dalton has had some issues turning the ball over so Eric Weddle would do well to read Dalton’s eyes and he can get an interception or two.
The key to this game might be Bengals RB Giovanni Bernard, an explosive weapon as both a runner and receiver. The Chargers would do well to have Manti Te’o to key in on him whenever he is in the game.
This game is likely to come down to turnovers. The Bengals turn the ball over more than the Chargers but they also force far more turnovers. Whoever wins the turnover battle is likely to come out with the victory.
The Broncos ended the Chiefs undefeated season two weeks ago, now the Chiefs are in dire need of a win to stop this streak before it becomes a free fall.
In the first game, the
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Chiefs went away from star RB Jamaal Charles early and were forced to rely on Alex Smith winning a shootout with Peyton Manning late, which is almost always going to be a losing proposition. DeMaryius Thomas was the weapon of choice for Manning in the first game as he torched the Chiefs for 121 yards.
The beginning of this game will be key to setting the tone. The Broncos jumped out in front, forcing the Chiefs to play catch up, something they don’t excel in as it forces them to go away from their best weapon, Charles. Dwayne Bowe and Dexter McCluster have also been productive for the Chiefs and they will have to continue to be as you can only shut down the Broncos for so long.
The Chiefs have to do a better job of getting to Manning. Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, and Dontari Poe must win the battle up front and Manning gets the ball out quick so the Chiefs have to be smart about the pressure they bring. Rushing four will allow Manning to pick apart the defense, something he did in the first meeting.
The Chiefs must get back to what they do best if they plan on winning this game. Establishing Charles on the ground and getting pressure on the quarterback which will force turnovers. You never know which receiver will break out for the Broncos so keying on one is futile. The Chiefs would do well to shut down Knowshon Moreno who has been extremely effective for the Broncos.
These teams are complete opposites so whichever team better imposes their style on this game is the one who will be successful. For the Chiefs that means ball control and stifling defense. For the Broncos, it’s about spreading the field and lighting up the scoreboard.