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LA Chargers: Stopping Travis Kelce and the 5 keys to beating the Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce celebrates his touchdown during the 2019 NFL week 11 regular season football game between Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers on November 18, 2019, at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. (Photo by PEDRO PARDO / AFP) (Photo by PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images)
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce celebrates his touchdown during the 2019 NFL week 11 regular season football game between Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers on November 18, 2019, at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. (Photo by PEDRO PARDO / AFP) (Photo by PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images)
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(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) – LA Chargers
(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) – LA Chargers

The LA Chargers will square off against the Chiefs with a chance to get to 2-0 and take the early division lead. How can they make sure that happens?

While the LA Chargers didn’t beat the Chiefs in either matchup during the 2019 season, they kept both games close. Los Angeles is the only AFC West team to beat Kansas City in the Patrick Mahomes era, as most fans vividly remember the Mike Williams 2018 Thursday Night explosion.

The Chargers have also been the most competitive AFC West opponent for the Chiefs during the Mahomes era in general, as point differential demonstrates:

AFC West vs. Chiefs point differential in last two seasons(4 games each):Oakland -88 (-22 per game)Denver: -55 (-13.75 per game)LA: -26 (-6.5 per game)The Chargers have been EASILY the most competitive rival of the chiefs in the last two years. They have a shot on Sunday.

— Alex Insdorf (@alexlancedorf) September 17, 2020

The Chargers should be the clear underdogs heading into Sunday, but there are certainly ways they can win this game.

1. Stopping Travis Kelce

This is the most important key to me by far. Casey Hayward, Michael Davis, and Chris Harris can handle Kansas City’s wide receivers. Considering the Derwin James injury though, there’s a huge question mark in terms of who handles Travis Kelce.

The Chargers played one game against Kansas City with James and one without him. In the Mexico game without him, Kelce was covered by Thomas Davis, Michael Davis, and Rayshawn Jenkins. He had seven catches, 92 yards, and a touchdown. In the game vs. James, Kelce only had three receptions for 24 yards.

There are a lot of ways that this could play out. Theoretically, the Chargers could use Desmond King or Harris to contain Kelce. In that scenario where they’re using one of the corners, Harris would be the on that I would go with in coverage.

The other option is a mixed rotation like they did in the Mexico game last year. This seems like a risky option though, considering that Rayshawn Jenkins and Davis played somewhat poorly vs. Kelce last season. Plus, Kenneth Murray is inexperienced in NFL level pass coverage.

Personally, I think the Chargers have to be comfortable enough to stick one or two of their defenders on Kelce for the duration of the game. Right now, the two that make the most sense are Jenkins at strong safety and Harris maybe coming inside when Kelce is in the slot. There’s no easy answer to the Kelce dilemma without James, but the Chargers have to figure something out.

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