Chiefs – Chargers.
It really doesn't get much better than this.
The season opener is always a special game, but there's no denying there's a bit more on the line as the Chargers kick off the 2018 campaign against a division opponent for the third-straight season. Not just that, but it's against the two-time reigning AFC West champs who have beaten the Bolts eight-straight times.
The Chargers are obviously looking to set a tone for the season against the Chiefs. However, in the end, it's still just a single game in what is a long, grinding road ahead.
Amid all the hype and hoopla, leave it to Philip Rivers to put it all in perspective.
"It's always exciting, the opening game of the season, whoever it is," he said. "(This year) is in the division (so) it carries a little more weight, but at the same time, it's big. It's a big game. All 16 are big. However, (as) this one goes, there's a long road ahead. This doesn't automatically put you winning the division or it doesn't do the opposite of that either if we stumble, but it's a big game. I think especially with our start last year, our emphasis has been on a faster start and that will be key here on Sunday."
That doesn't mean number 17 isn't fired up as he heads into the season opener as it always carries a little extra juice.
After spending his first two seasons learning the ropes, Rivers got his first career start in the first game of the 2006 campaign. The opponent that day was also a division opponent in the Raiders. It's been a dozen years since that memorable game in Oakland, but Rivers' feelings remain largely the same.
Age has taught him how to keep those emotions more in check, but there's just something about the season opener that's special.
"Still super excited," Rivers said. "Even in the meeting today installing first and second down passes, my hands were sweating a little bit thinking about some of the plays you had drawn up. I think, in a lot of ways the same. Maybe it's just a little more subdued I guess than when I was 22, 23 years old, but (I'm) super excited. That opening week in the season, even my oldest son he keeps saying, 'Hey, almost four days until Thursday.' He's counting down to just until the season gets kicked off. It's something about that opening weekend that gets you fired up, and it being at home and in the division, probably even adds to that."
Then there's Kansas City itself.
Rivers has gone up against the Chiefs as much as any other team in his career; however, their defense this year will look awfully different from the one he's recently become accustomed to seeing.
"I think first is just how different it is when you don't see Derrick Johnson out there (or Marcus) Peters…. It's been different seeing different guys, and after that you go, 'Well it's the same scheme and it's still a heck of a group.' You always think about those edge rushers 50 (Justin Houston) and 55 (Dee Ford). They can really rush the passer. Then there are just a lot of new faces — a (cornerback) from Dallas, different DBs in there that we've seen on other teams, but haven't seen in this Chiefs defense."
However, while some of the players have changed, the scheme is largely in place.
Thus, Rivers knows he's in for quite a test facing off against a defensive coordinator he has a ton of respect for.
"There are certain things you're not sure how they're going to be and how they're going to match up just because we're not sure who is going to be in there in certain situations," he said. "All-in-all it's a Bob Sutton-coached defense, and it's a solid group. They play that scheme very well, and we know what to expect on Sunday. Like I've always told you, I never overreact on our preseason — good or bad. I know there's been some negative reaction to their preseason defensively, but I don't buy that. We know what we'll get. We'll get Kansas City's best on Sunday."
As far as the Chiefs' eight-game win streak goes, Rivers explained how it's all just a matter of perspective.
"They've had quite a few in a row on us, but this current team has never played these guys and vice-versa," he said. "They haven't played us. That's the way I like to look at it. Or if you want some positiveness, I go back to the eight (games) before (that stretch) and I go how about that stretch here. It was pretty good on our end."
Browse through the top photos as the Chargers prepare to kick off the regular season against the Kansas City Chiefs.