The San Diego Chargers kick off the 2016 regular season with an AFC West clash against the Kansas City Chiefs. Kickoff from Arrowhead Stadium is set for Sunday at 10:00AM PT.
What to Watch For…
On Offense for the Chargers
Philip Rivers is under center for his 13th season, including 11th as the team’s starting QB. Number 17 led the NFL and set new franchise records with 437 completions and 661 attempts last year, and was just 10 shy of tying Dan Fouts’ mark with 4,792 passing yards. His top targets will once again be Antonio Gates and Keenan Allen, while newcomer Travis Benjamin looks to inject a speed element to the passing game. On the ground, Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead aim to establish a potent rushing attack from Week 1.
On Offense for the Chiefs
Alex Smith starts at quarterback for the fourth straight year, and will look to spread the ball around to WR Jeremy Maclin and TE Travis Kelce. Maclin led the Chiefs a year ago with 87 receptions for 1,088 yards and eight touchdowns, while Kelce earned his first Pro Bowl trip with 72 catches for 825 yards and five touchdowns. With Jamaal Charles’ status up in the air as he recovers from an ACL injury, Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West will look to split time in the backfield. Ware carried the rock 72 times for 403 yards and six touchdowns in 2015 and West had 160 carries for 634 yards and four scores.
On Defense for the Chargers
The Bolts have two new captains on the defensive side of the ball in Brandon Mebane and Manti Te’o, each of whom will be counted on to make a difference. Mebane is a 10-year vet and former Super Bowl Champion who has played in 142 games with 134 starts, notching 386 tackles, 15.5 sacks and two forced fumbles from the nose tackle position. Meanwhile, Te’o led the Bolts last season with 107 tackles. In the back end, newcomer Casey Hayward joins Pro Bowler Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers as cornerbacks looking to contain Maclin and company.
On Defense for the Chiefs
Outside linebacker Justin Houston will not take the field as he is on the PUP list. Fellow OLB Tamba Hali is expected to play, but Head Coach Andy Reid mentioned he will most likely be on a pitch count. Nonetheless, Kansas City boasts one of the NFL’s top defenses, led by Jaye Howard and Dontari Poe up front and Pro Bowlers Marcus Peters and Eric Berry in the secondary.
The Chargers and Chiefs have met 112 times, with Kansas City holding a slight 56-55-1 series edge. The Chiefs hold a 33-23 series edge at home. This also marks the seventh time the teams have opened the season against one another, and the fifth in Kansas City. Most recently, they squared off Week 1 in 2010 with the Chargers falling 21-14 on Monday Night Football.
By the Numbers
In 2015, the Chargers ranked ninth in total offense (371.8 yards per game), fourth in passing (286.9 ypg), 31st in rushing (84.9 ypg) and 26th in points (24.6). The Chiefs ranked 27th total offense (331.2 ypg), 30th in passing (203.4 ypg), sixth in rushing (127.8 ypg) and ninth in points (25.3).
Defensively, the Bolts ranked 20th in total defense (361.9 ypg), 14th in passing (236.6 ypg), 27th in rushing (125.3 ypg) and 21st in points allowed (24.9). Kansas City ranked seventh in total defense (329.3 ypg), ninth in passing (231.1 ypg), eighth in rushing (98.2 ypg) and third in points allowed (17.9).
Milestones on the Horizon
Antonio Gates heads into 2016 ranked seventh all-time with 104 career touchdown catches. He’ll need seven more to catch Tony Gonzalez (111) for sixth all-time and ﬁrst among tight ends.
Philip Rivers ranks 11th in NFL history with 281 career touchdown passes. He needs nine more to move into the NFL’s all-time Top-10 and pass Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas who has 290.
Noteworthy vs. the Chiefs
Last November, Philip Rivers became the franchise’s all-time leader for career completions. He also passed Joe Montana for 15th in NFL history in passing yards. In 2014, Rivers threw his 237thand 238th career touchdown passes to enter the NFL’s all-time Top-20 list. He also threw his very first touchdown pass in the 2004 regular-season finale against the Chiefs.
In 2013, Keenan Allen was named Pepsi Next NFL Rookie of the Week after recording a game-high nine catches for 124 yards in a 41-38 win over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Later in that same season, Allen won another Pepsi Next Award after recording a team-high 89 yards in the Bolts’ playoff clinching 27-24 overtime win vs. the Chiefs.
Antonio Gates surpassed 10,000 career receiving yards against Kansas City in 2015 to become the 44th player and fourth tight end in NFL history to achieve the mark.
On Dec. 12, 2010, the Chargers held Kansas City to 67 total yards, the second-lowest total in a game in franchise history.
Travis Benjamin earned his ﬁrst AFC Special Teams Player of the Week Award with the Browns in 2012 after totaling 149 punt return yards, including a career-long 93-yard touchdown return in a 30-7 win over the Chiefs.
Offensive lineman Chris Hairston made his NFL debut for Buffalo against Kansas City as a left and right tackle in 2011.
Cornerback Brandon Flowers originally came into the NFL as a second-round pick of the Chiefs in 2008, and played six seasons in Kansas City.
Tight end Sean McGrath played in all 16 games and made nine starts for the Chiefs in 2013.
Safety Darrell Stuckey hails from Kansas City, Kansas. In 2015, the Kansas City, Kansas School District presented Stuckey with the Reason to Believe Award, which is given to alumni who have made a positive impact in the community.
Wide Receivers Coach Nick Sirianni joined the Chargers in 2013 after spending four seasons in Kansas City. From 2009-11, he was an offensive quality control coach for the Chiefs and in 2012 he coached the team’s wide receivers.
Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Rick Lyle grew up in Kansas City. He was a football, track and wrestling standout at Hickman Mills (Mo.) High School.
Offensive Assistant Tommy Rees’ father, Bill Rees, worked in personnel for the Chiefs.
Director of Player Personnel JoJo Wooden’s older brother, Terry, played nine seasons in the NFL as a linebacker, including one in Kansas CIty.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith is a native of La Mesa, Calif. and he prepped at Helix High School.
Running Backs Coach Eric Bieniemy was a second-round pick of the Chargers in 1991 and he played running back for the Bolts from 1991-94. Bieniemy was a member of the Bolts’ AFC Champion squad in ’94.
CBS (KFMB, Channel 8 in San Diego and KCBS-TV, Channel 2 in Los Angeles and Orange County) – Kevin Harlan (play-by-play) and Rich Gannon (analyst)
Rock 105.3 FM, XTRA Sports 1360 (San Diego) and AM 570 KLAC (Los Angeles & Orange County) – Josh Lewin (play-by-play) and Nick Hardwick (analyst)
Spanish Radio –XHFG 107.3 (San Diego)– Jorge Villanueva (play-by-play) and Tony Alvarez (analyst)
All Chargers radio broadcasts are now being streamed live on the team’s official website, www.chargers.com. XTRA Sports 1360 Broadcasts with Josh Lewin (play-by-play) and Nick Hardwick (analyst) will begin two hours before kickoff and continue for 90 minutes of postgame coverage.
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