Eric Berry will make his season debut. The Chiefs can clinch the AFC West title and a first-round bye with a win. Tony Gonzalez will be at Arrowhead Stadium. The game is on national television. Under the lights. Against a division foe.
Yeah, let’s go ahead and classify this as a big game.
The Chiefs-Chargers game is arguably the best “Thursday Night Football” matchup of the season, and likely will get big TV ratings. Pundits have been talking about the game all week, and now they’ve made their choice for who will win.
Of the 41 national NFL observers who made straight-up picks for the game, 35 believe the Chiefs will win. Here is the breakdown and what people are saying about the game.
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Andy Benoit of Sports Illustrated forecast a 34-31 Chiefs victory. He wrote in part: “If Travis Kelce has over 90 yards receiving, Kansas City will win. If it’s under, L.A. wins. Kelce will be guarded by (Derwin) James in man coverage, and he’s likely to see top Chargers corner Casey Hayward on third down if it’s zone coverage.”
David Steele of the Sporting News predicted a 29-24 win for the Chiefs. This is part of what he wrote: “It takes a lot to overshadow what the Chargers have done this season, and since their 0-5 start last season — what Philip Rivers has done at age 37, what Antonio Gates has done when pressed back into service, what the offense has done without Melvin Gordon recently, what the defense did for half the season without Joey Bosa, what Anthony Lynn just keeps on doing under the radar. But the Chiefs have overshadowed it, and Patrick Mahomes is almost the sole reason. If he can drive them to a season sweep, clinch the division an all but guarantee home field, he will have done it over one audacious opponent.”
Elliot Harrison of NFL.com had the Chiefs winning 30-26. Here is an excerpt of what he wrote: “Although these two proud franchises have been going at it for 59 seasons, all the way back to the early days of the AFL, I don’t think any of their previous 117 matchups carried this much weight. ... Chiefs back Spencer Ware was banged up last week, which might translate to Mahomes throwing at least 40 times. Thus, the key for K.C. will be getting Joey Bosa (another sack last week) and Melvin Ingram blocked. Crowd noise will be a factor for the other quarterback. In case you are wondering, Philip Rivers has lost his last four starts at Arrowhead, with the Chargers scoring 50 points. Total. Now that is a stat.”
Five of eight CBS Sports writers went with the Chiefs: Will Brinson, Ryan Wilson, Jared Dubin, David Richard and Jamey Eisenberg. Three took the Chargers: Pete Prisco, John Breech and Jason La Canfora. Prisco predicted a 33-31 Chargers victory. He wrote in part: “The Chiefs have won nine straight against the Chargers, but this Chargers team is better than most of those. Look for a big-time shootout between Patrick Mahomes and Philip Rivers. In the end, Rivers will get the best of it.”
All seven SB Nation writers picked the Chiefs: Adam Stites, Ryan Van Bibber, David Fucillo, Stephen White, Christian D’Andrea, Charles McDonald and Geoff Schwartz. Van Bibber wrote in part: “The Chiefs would clinch the AFC West with a win over the Chargers. However, a loss would leave the division race and even the No. 1 seed in the AFC wide open. Our panel is united in its predictions that the Chiefs will win, and with the game at Arrowhead Stadium, that checks out.”
Seven of eight Pro Focus Football writers predicted a Chiefs victory: Neil Hornsby, Steve Palazzolo, Sam Monson, Gordon McGuinness, Zac Robinson, Jeff Ratcliffe and Nathan Jahnke. The Chargers were the pick of Mike Renner.
Four of USA Today’s five experts went with the Chiefs: Lorenzo Reyes (final score: 30-27), Mike Jones (35-30), Mike Middlehurst-Schwartz (30-21) and Nate Davis (27-23). However, Jarrett Bell is picking a 34-31 win for the Chargers.
Nine of ESPN’s 10 experts think the Chiefs will win: Matt Bowen, Mina Kimes, Louis Riddick, Seth Wickersham, Mike Golic, Trey Wingo, Molly Qerim, Kevin Seifert and Mike Clay. The only writer to pick the Chargers: Dan Graziano.
It’s not a prediction, but Kyle Brandt of “Good Morning Football” talked about what the Chargers need to do to win: