Kansas City Chiefs (Week 1–Home, Week 15–Away)
Over the last four seasons, the Chiefs have completely stonewalled the Chargers in every encounter. Since 2014, Kansas City is a perfect 8-0 against the Bolts, which includes a pair of dominant performances by the Chiefs last season. The Andy Reid-coached squad won 24-10 in L.A. in Week 3 and 30-13 in Week 15 at Arrowhead Stadium, ultimately stomping the Chargers’ division title hopes.
But the Chargers enter the 2018 season with one of the AFC’s finest rosters. Combine that with concerns surrounding the Chiefs’ defense, and the Chargers might be staring down their first win over Kansas City since 2013. If such an occurrence happens, it will take place in Week 1 when the Chargers get the NFL’s first crack at the new-look Chiefs.
Kansas City will be riddled with kinks to begin the 2018 campaign. A new face at quarterback and a depleted defensive depth chart compared to year’s past mean the first few weeks of the new season will be bumpy. Under center is second-year quarterback Mahomes, who has massive shoes to fill in replacing Smith. The new Washington Redskins’ signal-caller threw 26 touchdown passes to only five interceptions last season, unquestionably the best campaign of his 12-year career.
Although experience is lacking for Mahomes, he and his howitzer arm are complemented with wide receivers Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, tight end Travis Kelce and running back Kareem Hunt; all pass-catchers who are big-play threats anywhere on the field.
However, Kansas City’s depleted secondary will be the ultimate factor in a Chargers’ Week 1 win. The defensive backfield lost standout cornerback Marcus Peters to the L.A. Rams, which leaves the group with cornerbacks Steven Nelson, Kendall Fuller and Orlando Scandrick. Their lone saving grace is veteran safety Eric Berry, but carrying the weight of the secondary will be strenuous.
The Chiefs’ defensive backfield will be tasked with containing a high-octane Chargers’ passing attack to kick off the season. L.A.’s pass-catching corps of Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Mike Williams and Antonio Gates will be a matchup nightmare for Kansas City in Week 1. Tyrell Williams and Allen will carve up the secondary in the 10-20-yard range with their elusiveness and route-running, while also joining Mike Williams as down-the-field weapons.
Where the Chargers will encounter resistance from the Chiefs is going to be in Week 15. By this time, Mahomes will have cultivated a greater rapport with his pass-catchers and the Chiefs’ offense will be one of NFL’s most explosive units. The secondary will still struggle to a degree, but Kansas City’s front seven has enough pieces to put some pressure on Philip Rivers and make life miserable for Chargers’ running back Melvin Gordon.
And do not forget the deafening confines of Arrowhead Stadium, one of the leagues most intimidating home-field advantages. The Chargers have felt the brunt of Chiefs Kingdom for nearly a decade by going 2-6 at Arrowhead since 2010. Chalk up a victory for the Bolts in Week 1, but Kansas City will exact revenge in Week 15.