The San Diego Chargers' run of AFC West titles ended at four last season as the Kansas City Chiefs went from worst to first. While the Chargers have some issues they need to resolve in order to recapture division supremacy, those pale in comparison to the problems the Chiefs are facing. San Diego tries to bounce back from a sloppy loss Sunday when it hosts a Kansas City team that has been pummeled in its first two games and will be without All Pro running back Jamaal Charles for the rest of the year.
After winning the West from 2006-09, the Chargers (1-1) struggled within the division last year and watched as the Chiefs finished in first place for the first time since 2003. San Diego split its two games against Kansas City in 2010 and finished 3-3 against West opponents, a mark it knows it must improve upon to get back to the playoffs. The Chargers appear to have a great chance Sunday considering they've not only outscored Kansas City 74-14 in winning the last two meetings at Qualcomm Stadium, but the Chiefs (0-2) also appear to be in a state of disarray.
Kansas City has been outscored by 79 points - its worst differential through two games in franchise history - and has had to put three of its top players on injured reserve with torn ACLs. Charles, who had the NFL's second-highest rushing total last season with 1,467 yards on a remarkable 6.4 yards per carry, tore the ACL in his left knee after taking an awkward step while finishing off a run in the first quarter of last Sunday's 48-3 loss at Detroit. Veteran Thomas Jones has proven he can handle a heavy workload after running for 896 yards and six TDs last season while logging 15 more carries than Charles. But he's a month removed from turning 33, and the Chiefs will now need the 23-year-old Dexter McCluster - whose 94-yard punt return was the difference in a 21-14 win over San Diego last season - to step up.
Jones didn't have much success in two games against the Chargers last season, running for 40 yards on 14 attempts, while Charles rushed for 132 yards on 21 carries. San Diego, meanwhile, should be anxious to get back home after some self-inflicted wounds Sunday at New England. The Chargers committed four turnovers in a 35-21 loss - with running back Mike Tolbert's fumble, down six in the fourth quarter, looming the largest.
San Diego should have better luck forcing turnovers against the Chiefs, who lead the league with nine. Matt Cassel, who has not thrown for more than 133 yards and owns a 50.4 quarterback rating, is responsible for five - including four interceptions. Cassel has also struggled in his last three games against the Chargers, averaging 114.3 yards with three touchdowns and four picks. Rivers has been a bit turnover-prone as well, matching Cassel with four interceptions and a fumble. He figures to have better luck against a Kansas City secondary that's been torched by Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matthew Stafford - each threw four TD passes - but Rivers doesn't need to look further than his own numbers against the Chiefs. Rivers has averaged 295.2 yards and posted a 108.0 passer rating in six games versus Kansas City since 2008 - five victories. Bolts by three scores as they increase KC's futility to a whole new level.