If the Los Angeles Chargers (like the rest of the league) have learned anything over the last few years, it's that the only way to take down Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs is to beat them at their own game. Mahomes will put up points, but LA needs to match it.
On paper, it sounds like the Chargers are well-equipped for this task. Justin Herbert has continued to prove that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and a receiving corps led by Keenan Allen and Mike Williams (fresh off signing a new contract) ranks among the best in the NFL. What exactly is the issue?
Well, Allen is dealing with an injury that is likely going to sideline him for this Thursday clash against Kansas City, and the rest of the receivers didn't light the suspect Raiders defense on fire. Williams and No. 3 receiver Josh Palmer combined for just 15 yards receiving on five catches.
While Herbert has the arm talent needed to overcome some injuries at wide receiver, the odds of him matching Mahomes blow for blow one week after No. 15 tossed five touchdown passes on the road have shrunk dramatically. This is a big problem for LA against the favorites to take home the AFC West crown.
Will the Chargers be able to keep up with the Chiefs?
Williams is not going to have 10 yards receiving, especially with Allen out against a below-average secondary. That's not the issue. The problem is that Palmer, who is far from a proven commodity, is going to be in for a heavy workload without the benefit of Allen to draw defensive attention away.
DeAndre Carter found the end zone against the Raiders, and seldom-used Jalen Guyton has been on the receiving end of his fair share of Herbert deep balls, but that doesn't mean that LA can keep pace with Andy Reid's bombastic attack. Balance might be key to winning this game.
Austin Ekeler will earn his paycheck this week, as he'll be tasked with leading the ground game and being among the leading receivers. Herbert's passing attack might be more vertical than we're used to seeing from Joe Lombardi, as Allen's ability to dominate over the middle on intermediate routes will be missed.
The Chargers have been hyped all offseason long as one of the few teams capable of derailing the Chiefs in what has become a loaded division. The viewing public might not see LA at full strength in this matchup, however.