Chiefs vs. Chargers 2013 game preview: Playoffs on the line for San Diego

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

With the sixth seed still up for grabs, San Diego will be going all-out for the win.

On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs will visit the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium to finish off the regular season slate.

For Kansas City, this game means nothing. The Chiefs are locked into the No. 5 seed at 11-4, giving them ample reason to rest starters and start getting ready for a potential playoff run. It's likely we will see none of Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles.

The story could be much different for the Chargers. San Diego needs the Miami Dolphins to lose against the New York Jets and the Baltimore Ravens to fall versus the Cincinnati Bengals during the early games. If those two things happen, San Diego is in the postseason with a victory.

Meet the Chiefs

Kansas City has had the biggest turnaround of any team this season, making a nine-win improvement. The Chiefs have relied heavily on Charles to lead them offensively, and he has delivered in a huge way. The sixth-year back out of Texas has a league-leading 18 touchdowns on 1,287 rushing and 693 receiving yards.

Smith has also enjoyed one of his best seasons, if not the best. The former No. 1 overall pick has thrown for 3,313 yards and 23 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Both the TD passes and yardage are career-highs. Despite not having top receivers outside of Dwayne Bowe, Smith has provided the Chiefs with a solid passing game.

Defensively, this team went from dominant to doormat the second Justin Houston got hurt. Houston subluxed his elbow against these Chargers back in Week 12, sparking a defensive collapse. Without Houston, who has 11 sacks, Tamba Hali has been rendered ineffective, only nabbing one sack in that time. The secondary has also struggled, with Kendrick Lewis consistently getting beat deep.

Meet the Chargers

Head coach Mike McCoy has done an excellent job in his first season at the helm. Most pundits believed the Chargers would struggle to win six games, but McCoy has guided San Diego to an 8-7 mark. Of course, the leader is Philip Rivers, who is having one of his best campaigns after most thought his top seasons were behind him.

Rivers has thrown for 4,249 yards and 29 touchdowns despite losing his top receiver, Malcom Floyd, in the second week of the season. His 10 interceptions are his lowest total since 2009, and his completion percentage of 69.7 is easily a career-best. One player who has helped Rivers immensely is rookie Keenan Allen, who has 957 yards and eight touchdowns on 66 catches.

The only real trouble area for this team is the defense, which might be one of the least talented groups in football. There really aren't any standout players outside of Eric Weddle, who is still one of the better safeties in the league. Thomas Keiser and Corey Liuget lead the Chargers with 4.5 sacks each.

Local take: Kansas City

Despite a bad loss last week against the Indianapolis Colts, Joel Thorman of Arrowhead Pride isn't down:

I don't walk away from this game feeling the Colts are so much better than the Chiefs that KC couldn't compete. I felt that the Chiefs beat themselves as much as anything with silly mistakes that they don't normally make. I mean, a taunting penalty? Multiple third down penalties? Four turnovers? These aren't things we've been seeing from the Chiefs throughout the season, so part of me wonders if it's a bit of an outlier game (well, it is the biggest loss this season). The Chiefs probably aren't turning it over four times if they play again, right?

Local take: San Diego

Over on Bolts From The Blue, there was praise being doled out for Ryan Mathews' performance last week:

Ryan Mathews continues building on his excellent season. Mathews finished with 99 yards on 25 carries (3.96 YPC), which included a terrific 7 yard TD run in the 2nd quarter, where he bounced off DT Pat Sims and then ran right into the end zone. Mathews also showed some good lateral quickness in evading tackles at the line of scrimmage and turning runs into positive gains. In the passing game, Mathews finished with 3 catches for 20 yards (5 targets) - the misses wee a screen pass which Rivers threw away, and a dropped pass.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Arrowhead Pride and Bolts From The Blue, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@ArrowheadPride

@BFTB_Chargers

Prediction

San Diego might become eliminated from playoff contention by the time this game begins, but it likely will play all its starters regardless. The Chiefs on the other hand will probably only let their starters play a few series before donning baseball caps, gearing up for the postseason. It's tough to see a scenario where Kansas City wins this game, let alone even tries very hard.

Pick: San Diego 30, Kansas City 17

Odds

San Diego is favored by 11 points at home against Kansas City, according to Oddsshark.com.

Next week

The Chargers may or may not have a game while the Chiefs will be visiting either the New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals or Colts.

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