San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
By: Mitch Light | 9/9/10, 5:19 PM EDT
This game could be closer than expected. The Chargers will play without two of their top players, wide receiver Vincent Jackson and left tackle Marcus McNeill. The Chiefs are opening a newly renovated Arrowhead Stadium, but more than that, Kansas City has plenty riding on this nationally televised game. A win, or even a close loss, could mean justified optimism after an encouraging offseason. A Chargers blowout would spoil the Chiefs’ party.
Keys for the Chiefs
• Running back Jamaal Charles is the key to the Chiefs’ offense, especially against the Chargers’ terrific defense. Charles rushed for 968 yards in his final eight games last year, and he could be a rising star. The Chiefs need him to pick up where he left off in 2009, and that means easing the pressure on quarterback Matt Cassel and an average offensive line.
• Cassel was unimpressive during the preseason, throwing two interceptions and taking four sacks in limited duty. The Chiefs don’t yet know what they have in Cassel for the long-term, but for now, they’ll need him to be a sharp passer and a vocal presence if the team hopes to upset San Diego.
Keys for the Chargers
• The team needs to see how it performs without Jackson and McNeill, considering it could be without them a while. Those are big absences, and it could change the look of San Diego’s offense. Someone needs to step in to overshadow what the Chargers don’t have.
• Quarterback Philip Rivers has to show that he can win under difficult circumstances, and he’ll have to do it against a young and talented, but inexperienced Chiefs defense. Rivers will be under attack all night from Chiefs coordinator Romeo Crennel’s 3-4 unit, and the veteran passer will have to rely on his experience and ability. Beginning the season with a somewhat depleted offense on national television will be a big test for Rivers.
For all the perceived advantages the Chiefs might have — home field, new stadium, San Diego’s absent players — the Chargers still have far more talent throughout its roster. Kansas City is better than it was last year, when it was blown out twice by San Diego, but the Chiefs will have to be close to perfect to overcome the Chargers’ depth and star power. Chargers 24–17.