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San Diego Chargers: A Closer Look

The Kansas City Chiefs (8-7) and San Diego Chargers (9-6) meet on Sunday with AFC playoff implications

The best way to play a Week 17 game against a rival that dates back more than 50 years is to have a lot on the line, which happens to be the case on Sunday between the Chiefs and Chargers.

Both need wins to get into the playoffs, although the Chiefs would need a little outside help as well.

"I told the team, you can't worry about all that," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of the outside help they need to get into the playoffs. "Some of us have been through it where we had to have those things happen. Sometimes they happen and sometimes they don't, but you can't control any of it.

"The one thing you can control is your preparation for this game and how you play on Sunday."

The Chiefs are 31-23 against the Chargers in "home" games in the rivalry's history, dating all the way back to their first matchup on September 25, 1960, when it was the Dallas Texans vs. the Los Angeles Chargers.

In that first game, which was actually played at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, it was Cotton Davidson and Johnny Robinson for the Texans who would lead the team to the 17-0 victory over the Chargers.


Fast forward 54 years and these two teams meet at Arrowhead Stadium in December for the 11th time in history with the Chiefs holding a 7-4 advantage, although the Chargers have won the last two meetings.

The last meeting was in 2008 when the Chiefs starting quarterback was ironically Tyler Thigpen, who signed just this week with the Cleveland Browns, whom the Chiefs need to win on Sunday in order to have a chance at getting back into the playoffs.

The Chiefs need the Browns to beat the Baltimore Ravens and the Jacksonville Jaguars to beat the Houston Texans and obviously need a win themselves.

But the Chiefs will have to go through quarterback Philip Rivers in order to accomplish that goal, which is much easier said than done.

"Everybody knows he's a guy that's never going to quit, he's going to keep firing, keep fighting," Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. "Obviously he's really, really talented. He does a great job in the pocket standing in there."

Rivers has completed 359 of 536 (67 percent) passes this season for 3,995 yards with 31 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, and he's had success in Arrowhead Stadium in his career.

Rivers is 5-3 as a visiting quarterback in Arrowhead and has completed 180 of 284 (63.4 percent) passes for 2,305 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions in those games.

But he's only faced this particular Chiefs defense once, which was back on October 19, when the Chiefs left Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego with a 23-20 victory.

Rivers, who finished 17 of 31 for 205 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, had the second lowest completion percentage of his season in that game (54.8 percent).

Meet the starting roster for the San Diego Chargers

Also, the Chiefs are one of two teams in the NFL who have yet to allow a 300-yard passer this season and have not allowed a completion of 50 yards or more. They will have to contend with a Chargers passing attack that has boasted one of the NFL's premier tight ends for more than a decade in Antonio Gates.

In their first meeting, Gates had three catches for 61 yards and a touchdown to lead the Chargers.

In his career, Gates has 15 touchdown receptions against the Chiefs, which is the most of any single opponent.

Gates is particularly dangerous inside the red zone, but that's one area the Chiefs defense has been exceptional this season. They rank No. 1 in the NFL in defensive efficiency inside the red zone, allowing touchdowns on just 39.2 percent of drives that get inside the 20.

Conversely, the Chiefs offense, which had been No. 2 in the NFL inside the red zone before last week's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers (67.5 percent), dropped to No. 7 after going 0 for 4 on Sunday (61.4 percent).

It's an area they'll need to be good in on Sunday if they're going to pick up their ninth win of the season and have any chance at the playoffs.

"We don't necessarily control our own destiny with the what-ifs and what we need to happen," Smith explained. "It's easy to get distracted. The thing will be to focus in on the Chargers. It's a division game with them coming in. "We need to take care of our business."

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