The Los Angeles Chargers will face the Kansas City Chiefs in the biggest Thursday Night Football game of the season. But there will be much more at stake than that.
Does this all sound familiar? It should.
Last season, the Chargers, fighting and scraping to get into the playoffs, had a primetime matchup at Arrowhead Stadium. That game was played on a Saturday night and the Chargers laid an egg as only the Chargers can do.
Kareem Hunt had 206 yards of offense and two touchdowns in that game as the Chiefs rolled past the Chargers 30-13, putting a huge damper on the Chargers’ playoff chances.
But going into that game, both teams were 7-6. A win for the Chargers would have put them in the driver’s seat for a division title, a title that eventually went to the Chiefs.
Though the Chargers won their last two games, it wasn’t good enough to make the playoffs. The ugly loss at Arrowhead kept them out of the playoffs.
This season has been different, but it didn’t start out that way. In Week 1, the Chiefs with their new phenom, Patrick Mahomes, smashed the Chargers to start the season.
As a result, there are several factors that make Thursday night’s matchup even more important than the game one year ago.
For starters, this Chargers team is going to the playoffs. That much is almost settled. But a win over the Chiefs could give them a chance to win the AFC West division title, much like last year. On top of that, there’s a good chance that the winner of the AFC West will be the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs.
That means the road to the Super Bowl goes through….. the StubHub Center? Sounds weird to say, let alone type.
But that is what the Chargers are playing for. In addition, ending a nine-game losing streak to the Chiefs, one that dates back to 2014, would be extremely important for this team’s confidence.
Getting another win on national television, ending this ridiculous streak and tying the Chiefs for the division lead? That sounds like a nearly perfect scenario.
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Melvin Gordon remains questionable and will likely be a “game-time decision” for the Chargers and his top backup, Austin Ekeler, has already been ruled out. There’s a chance we’ll get a heavy dose of Justin Jackson, who has rushed for 139 yards over the course of the last three games.
The Chargers have been great this season. They have gone on the road and beaten a solid Seattle Seahawks team. They have gone on the road and beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers under the national spotlight. But this is the kind of game they need to find a way to win if this Super Bowl talk is to be taken seriously.
It’s the biggest game the Chargers have played in at least a calendar year, and probably more like almost five years.