The Los Angeles Chargers kick off the 2018 season with an AFC West clash against the reigning division champion Kansas City Chiefs. Kickoff from ROKiT Field at StubHub Center is set for 1:05pm PT.
What to Watch For…
On Offense for the Chargers
Philip Rivers once again leads the Bolts as he enters his 15th season, fresh off a campaign which was one of the best in his Hall of Fame worthy career. Number 17 ranked second in the league last season with 4,515 total passing yards, guiding the NFL’s top ranked passing offense with 4,431 net yards, good for a 276.9 yards per game average. His go-to receiver was Keenan Allen, who was named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year with a season for the ages. Allen broke the Chargers’ single season receptions record with 102 catches, which were also the fourth most in the NFL. Meanwhile, his 1,393 receiving yards were the second most in a season in franchise history. In addition, Melvin Gordon posted his first 1,000-yard rushing season, which was the first for the Chargers since 2013. His 1,105 total rushing yards were the seventh most in the league.
On Offense for the Chiefs
It’s the dawning of a new era for Kansas City as Patrick Mahomes takes over at quarterback after the Chiefs traded away Alex Smith during the offseason. Blessed with a cannon arm as well as the ability to escape pressure in the pocket, Mahomes figures to look deep early and often to one of the games most explosive playmakers in Tyreek Hill. The wide receiver is arguably the fastest man in the NFL, and last season had 75 receptions for 1,183 yards and seven touchdowns. Meanwhile, Hill is bookended by Sammy Watkins, who signed with the Chiefs this offseason. In addition, Kansas City boasts one of the top tight ends in the NFL in Travis Kelce, who caught 83 passes for 1,038 yards and eight touchdowns. On the ground, Kareem Hunt looks to pick up where he left off as a rookie a year ago when he earned the league’s rushing title with 1,327 yards (4.9 ypc) while also totaling eight rushing touchdowns and three receiving TDs.
On Defense for the Chargers
L.A.’s defense wasn’t just one of the best in the NFL in 2017, it was one of the top in franchise history. They allowed just 17.0 points per game, which were the third fewest in the NFL but were also the fewest they’ve allowed since 1992. It also marked nearly a 10 ppg improvement from 2016. The Chargers are led by a dominant pass rush, led by a pair of Pro Bowlers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Their secondary is paced by Casey Hayward, who has made the Pro Bowl and been a Second Team All-Pro pick in each of his two seasons with the Chargers. He’ll be joined in the secondary by first-round pick Derwin James as the safety will be making his NFL debut.
On Defense for the Chiefs
Kansas City’s secondary will look awfully different this season after they dealt cornerback Marcus Peters to the Rams and safety Daniel Sorensen begins the year on IR. However, their ferocious pass rush remains intact. Linebacker Justin Houston leads the way, coming off a season in which he totaled 9.5 sacks. Meanwhile, defensive end Chris Jones also wreaked havoc on the quarterback with 6.5 sacks.
Kansas City holds a 60-55-1 all-time advantage in the series while Los Angeles has the edge at home at 32-25-1. This will be the fourth time (2-2) the Chargers host the Chiefs in the season opener and the first since 1992.
By the Numbers
In 2017, the Chargers ranked fourth in total offense (376.6 yards per game), first in passing (276.9 ypg), 24th in rushing (99.7 ypg) and 13th in points (22.2). The Chiefs ranked fifth in total offense (376.4 ypg), seventh in passing (265.5 ypg), ninth in rushing (118,9 ypg) and sixth in points (25.9).
Defensively, the Bolts ranked 15th in total defense (328.4 ypg), third in passing (197.2 ypg), 31st in rushing (131.1 ypg) and third in points allowed (17.0). Kansas City ranked 28th in total defense (365.1 ypg), 28th in passing (247.0 ypg), 25th in rushing (118.1 ypg) and 15th in points allowed (21.2).
Milestones on the Horizon
Philip Rivers needs one more win to tie Hall of Fame QB Terry Bradshaw with 107 regular season victories for 12th most in NFL history.
Rivers needs one more touchdown pass to reach 343 and break a tie with Hall of Fame QB Fran Tarkenton for sole possession of sixth in NFL history.
Melvin Gordon needs 116 rushing yards to pass RB Don Woods (2,858) for the seventh most rushing yards in franchise history.
Gordon needs two rushing touchdowns to become the eighth player in team history to reach 20 career rushing scores and tie RB Mike Tolbert (20) for seventh in team history.
Gordon needs three rushing TDs for 21 in his career, which would move him into sole possession of sixth on the team’s all-time rushing touchdowns list.
With seven more receptions, Gordon would pass RB Chuck Muncie (138) to rank 10th in career receptions among Chargers running backs.
Gordon needs two receiving touchdowns to reach eight for his career, passing RB Paul Lowe (seven) for 10th in Chargers history.
Gordon needs 216 scrimmage yards to pass RB Don Woods (4,045) for the 10th most scrimmage yards by a running back in team annals.
Keenan Allen needs only two receptions to extend his multi-catch streak to 53 games, breaking a tie with Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow for the longest multi-catch streak in franchise history. It’s also the fourth-longest active multi-catch streak in the NFL.
Allen needs 100-plus receiving yards to post the 19th 100-yard game of his career to tie WR Anthony Miller for the seventh most in team history.
Allen needs 175 yards to reach 4,185 for his career to pass WR Tony Martin for 10th in team annals.
Joey Bosa needs just six more solo tackles to reach 100 for his career.
Jahleel Addae needs 11 total tackles to reach 300 for his career.
Melvin Ingram needs 5.0 sacks to reach 40.0 for his career and become just the seventh player in team history to reach that mark.
Travis Benjamin needs 10 catches to reach 200 for his career.
Benjamin needs 77 receiving yards to reach 3,000 for his career.
Austin Ekeler needs one touchdown run and one touchdown catch to become the second undrafted running back in Chargers history (Mike Tolbert) to post four receiving touchdowns through his first two seasons.
Ekeler needs two touchdown receptions to become the first undrafted running back in team annals to register five receiving TDs through his first two seasons.
Tyrell Williams needs 123 receiving yards to reach 2,000 for his career and become the 26th player in franchise history to do so.
Noteworthy vs. the Chiefs
During a Chargers game against Kansas City in Nov. 2015, Philip Rivers became the franchise’s all-time leader for career completions. During the Bolts’ second meeting that year in Kansas City, Rivers passed former Chiefs quarterback Joe Montana to become the 15th most prolific passer (yards) in NFL history.
In the Chargers’ 2004 regular-season finale, Rivers threw the first touchdown pass of his NFL career against the Chiefs.
During a game against Kansas City in 2014, Antonio Gates surpassed 10,000 career receiving yards to become the 44th player and fourth tight end in NFL history to achieve the mark.
In the 2016 season-finale, Gates tied Tony Gonzales for the most touchdown receptions ever by a tight end with 111.
In the Chargers’ 2016 regular-season finale, Jahleel Addae took an interception 90 yards for the score. The touchdown was a career first for the safety.
Melvin Gordon recorded a single-game career-high 91 receiving yards against the Chiefs on Dec. 16, 2017. He added 78 rushing yards to total 169 yards from scrimmage - his second-best total of his career.
Chargers Running Backs Coach Alfredo Roberts played tight end for the Chiefs from 1988-90.
DT Damion Square was on the roster for the Chiefs in 2014.
DT T.Y. McGill spent the 2018 offseason with the Chiefs.
Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy was drafted as a running back by the Chargers in 1991, where he played for three seasons (1991-94) including an appearance in Super Bowl XXIX.
CBS – Ian Eagle (play-by-play), Dan Fouts (analyst) and Evan Washburn (sideline)
KFI-AM 640 – Matt “Money” Smith (play-by-play), Daniel Jeremiah (analyst) and Shannon Farren (sideline)
Spanish Radio: KFWB – AM 980 - Mario Solis (play-by-play) and Jorge Villanueva (analyst)