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Chargers vs. Chiefs: Linebackers will be key to a Bolts win

CARSON, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: Kareem Hunt #27 of the Kansas City Chiefs avoids the tackle against Tre Boston #33 of the Los Angeles Chargers during the NFL game at the StubHub Center on September 24, 2017 in Carson, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: Kareem Hunt #27 of the Kansas City Chiefs avoids the tackle against Tre Boston #33 of the Los Angeles Chargers during the NFL game at the StubHub Center on September 24, 2017 in Carson, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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After all the talk, all the prognostications and all the offseason hoopla, the Los Angeles Chargers are ready to take the field in a game that counts.

After a promising second half of the 2017 season, the Chargers are a trendy to pick to not only win the AFC West division, but also to make some noise in the postseason. However, a loss in the season opener to the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday would instantly change all of that.

Are these the same old Chargers? Is this team ever going to get over the hump? Those are the questions you would hear ad nauseum in the media. So how do the Chargers prevent that from happening?

There seems to be one key factor to this game, and it comes when the Chiefs’ offense is on the field.

The Chiefs are on the road and will be bringing in a young quarterback making the first significant start of his career into the game. Chargers fans, get ready to see a lot of No. 27 running the ball.

Of course, No. 27 is Kareem Hunt. His rookie season in 2017 was amazing, with two of his better games coming against the Chargers. On Sunday, the Bolts will have to do something they couldn’t last year, which is to slow him down.

In two games against the Chargers last season, Hunt ran for 327 yards and two touchdowns. Most impressively was the fact that he averaged a ridiculous 7.9 yards per carry against them. That number must go down…. way down.

It should be no secret that at this juncture of the season, the Chiefs will lean on the shoulders of Hunt rather than to put too much on the plate of Patrick Mahomes just yet. It will be up to the Chargers to make the plays on defense to dictate that another player must beat them.

The Chargers will look to slow Hunt down at the point of attack and allow the linebackers to come up and make critical stops. This didn’t work last year, but the selections of Uchenna Nwosu and Kyzir White in the draft were designed to bolster the front seven and make it stronger against the run.

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Working against Los Angeles will be the fact that Corey Liuget will miss the game as part of his league-mandated suspension. Brandon Mebane and Darius Philon will be charged with the first phase of slowing Hunt down. Look for rookie Justin Jones and Damion Square to get some work as well.

Hunt may not be stopped in the backfield often. He may not even be shut down right at the line of scrimmage, but they key is not allowing him to get too far into the second level of the Chargers’ defense.

That’s where Denzel Perryman, Jatavis Brown, Nwosu, White and Kyle Emanuel come in. It will be a collective team effort.

If the Chargers aren’t decidely better against Hunt than they were last season, this will be a tough game to win. Though Philip Rivers has a number of weapons on offense and the Chargers are capable of putting up points, the defense holds the key to victory, which would be the Chargers’ first Week 1 win since beating the Detroit Lions in 2015.

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