The Kansas City Chiefs are set for a second-straight divisional matchup on Sunday as they prepare to take on the Los Angeles Chargers at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
Here are five things to keep in mind heading into game day.
1. Here's a look at the final injury report for both teams.
The Chiefs will be without wide receiver Justin Watson (elbow) on Sunday after the veteran pass-catcher left last Thursday's game with the injury. Additionally, cornerback Jaylen Watson (thigh) is listed as "Questionable" for Sunday after leaving Friday's practice early. Coach Reid added that they'll "just see where he is at" heading into game day.
As for wide receiver Mecole Hardman, who the Chiefs acquired from New York on Wednesday, and defensive lineman Charles Omenihu, who was reinstated from a suspension this week, all signs point to both individuals playing on Sunday.
"We'll see, but it's going in that direction," Reid said. "They did a nice job [in practice]."
The Chargers, meanwhile, will be without four players on Sunday, including safety Alohi Gilman (heel). Gilman – who played 100 percent of the Bolts' snaps through the first three weeks of the season – has been sidelined since Week 4. Additionally, Los Angeles listed All-Pro safety Derwin James as "Questionable" for Sunday due to an ankle injury. James first appeared on the Chargers' injury report on Thursday before missing Friday's practice.
2. The Chargers have racked up the third-most sacks in the NFL.
The Chargers have tallied 21 sacks this season – tied for the third-most in the NFL – and after failing to record a single sack in Week 1, Los Angeles has amassed at least four sacks in each of its last four games. That includes a five-sack outing vs. Dallas last week, and a seven-sack performance against Las Vegas the week prior.
Los Angeles features an impressive stable of edge rushers led by All-Pros Khalil Mack (7 sacks) and Joey Bosa (3 sacks), but two additional names to know on Sunday are rookie outside linebacker Tuli Tuipulotu and defensive lineman Morgan Fox.
Tuipulotu – who joined the Chargers as a second-round pick – ranks second on the team in pressures with 19, trailing only Mack's 23. In fact, Tuipulotu has the fourth-most pressures among all rookies so far this season.
Fox isn't far behind Tuipulotu in pressures, either, as he owns the third-most on Los Angeles with 13. A seven-year veteran, Fox is a versatile player who will likely line up from a variety of different spots along the defensive line on Sunday.
With all of that in mind, the good news for Kansas City is that the Chiefs have yielded the fewest sacks of any team to play six games this season with six. In that same vein, according to Pro Football Focus' grading system, Chiefs' quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been the league's best passer when pressured this season.
Additionally, for what it's worth, the Chargers' defense is currently allowing the second-most yards-per-game (391.6) of any team in the NFL despite those lofty sack totals.
3. Kansas City has only surrendered 79 offensive points this season.
The Chiefs' defense has stacked one strong performance after another this season, yielding just 79 offensive points – the fewest of any team to play six games – heading into Week 7. Kansas City is the only team in the NFL to hold the opposition under 22 total points in every game this season, and in terms of scoring defense – which includes total points allowed – the Chiefs currently rank second in the league (at 14.7 points-per-game) behind only San Francisco (14.5).
The exciting thing about the Chiefs' defensive performance thus far is that it appears to be sustainable. It's not buoyed by gaudy takeaway totals (where Kansas City ranks 10th with nine) or an unusually high red-zone touchdown percentage (where the Chiefs rank 12th at 50%).
Kansas City has simply been solid across the board, ranking second in average yards allowed after-the-catch (4.0), sixth in net yards allowed-per-game (284), seventh in passing plays of 25+ yards (8), ninth in third down conversion rate (36%) and – most importantly – fifth in total touchdowns allowed (9).
Now, in order to find more of that success on Sunday, one key area for the Chiefs defensively will be limiting the Chargers' short third-down opportunities. In the two matchups between the Chiefs and Chargers last season, an astounding 19 of Los Angeles' 33 total third-down chances required fewer than three yards for a conversion. That reality – coupled with the Chargers' tendency to go for it on fourth down – makes the Chiefs' performance on early downs all the more critical.
"I mentioned this to the guys this morning – we're going to try extremely hard to make sure that the third downs are longer," said Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. "It would behoove us to play really well on first and second down, and then maybe if there is a third-down play and they gain three yards, maybe it's a 4th-and-5, and we can talk them out of going for it because it's not 4th-and-2 or 4th-and-1."
4. Chargers' quarterback Justin Herbert is throwing the football further downfield this year.
Herbert is off to another solid start this season, completing 125-of-182 passes (68.7%) for 1,333 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions, but one area of note is his average depth of target.
The fourth-year quarterback had an average depth of target of just 6.7 yards last season, which was the third-lowest mark among passers with 400+ dropbacks in 2022. Only the New York Giants' Daniel Jones (6.5 yards) and the Indianapolis Colts' Matt Ryan (6.5 yards) had a lower figure.
This season, under new Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore, that number has jumped to 8.7 yards – the fifth-highest mark in the NFL among quarterbacks with 200+ dropbacks. In other words, Herbert is throwing the ball further downfield on average than he ever has before. It will be up to the Chiefs' defense – which is allowing the sixth-fewest net passing yards-per-game in the NFL (183.8) – to slow him down.
5. If the Chiefs can get back on track in the red zone, this offense will be tough to stop.
Kansas City only scored 19 points last week, but there is still plenty of reason to believe that the Chiefs' young offense will soon find its groove. In fact, the Chiefs racked up 389 yards vs. Denver – the fourth-most of any team in Week 6 – and for the season, Kansas City owns the fourth-most total yards-per-game in the NFL (382.3), the lowest three-and-out percentage (9.7%), the third-best third-down conversion rate (48.1%) and the second-most plays of 10+ yards (85) of any team.
Simply put, the Chiefs have moved the football up and down the field this season. The issue last week was the red zone, where the Chiefs scored just one touchdown on five possessions. Kansas City currently ranks 18th in red zone touchdown efficiency (54.2%), but only a few plays can swing that number in either which direction, and it's worth remembering that the Chiefs ranked second in that category just last year (69.4%).
It's all to say that if Kansas City can improve its red zone efficiency, this has the potential to be one of the top scoring offenses in the NFL.
Catch the Chargers and Chiefs on Sunday afternoon at 3:25 p.m. CT on CBS.