Monday Night Football: AFC East Foes San Diego and Kansas …

The San Diego Chargers (4-2), despite sitting atop the AFC West this season, have yet to play their best football this season but will face a tough challenge tonight for Monday Night Football as they head to the unfriendly confines of Arrowhead Stadium to battle the resurgent Kansas City Chiefs (3-3). After being cast off early due to a string of 3 straight losses, the Chiefs have found new hope for their season by running off 3 victories in a row, including coming off their Week 6 bye with a crushing 28-0 defeat of division-rival Oakland in Week 7 action. Kansas City will now try to parlay their success and confidence into tonight’s game against the San Diego Chargers, who will look to recoup from a tough road loss at the New York Jets last week in which starting quarterback Phillip Rivers seemed more uncomfortable in the pocket than at any time in a Chargers uniform.

San Diego’s Phillip Rivers may perhaps be the biggest question for tonight’s game, with many sports analysts trying to pinpoint what has changed, or what is affecting the 3-time Pro Bowler. After throwing two late picks last week which directly contributed to the Jets’ 4th quarter 27-21 comeback win, Rivers now sits at a 7:9 touchdown to interception ratio for the season, and a QB rating that is 13 points under his career average (82.3 vs. 95.9). Throwing multiple INTs in 4 of the 6 games so far this year, the leader of the #8 offense in football has quickly gone from being the focal point of that offense to a hindrance in less than half a season, and tonight’s game against Kansas City will be extremely important for Rivers to find a groove once again with his potent offense, and keep the ball with the Chargers against a Chiefs defense that is keen to exploit errors (as noted by the 6 INTs generated last week against the QB-unsure Oakland Raiders). Bolstered by some of the most talented names in the business, including tight end Antonio Gates, WR Vincent Jackson and a one-two punch backfield consisting of Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert, there is no reason why San Diego shouldn’t be a clear favorite for this game up against a Chiefs D that ranks 24th against the run and 18th against the pass (18th overall), however with the inconsistent play of Rivers being at the forefront of weakness in the Chargers game, there’s no doubt that tonight’s Monday Night Football showdown will hinge on the success or struggles of Phillip Rivers.

The Kansas City Chiefs meanwhile really haven’t put on a great showing this season, despite building a solid 3-game winning streak. After dropping a close game to the Chargers back in Week 3 20-17, Kansas City has faced sub-par opponents, including the Minnesota Vikings (2-6), the winless and punch less Indianapolis Colts (0-8), and a solid Oakland team that had to deal with losing a starting quarterback and juggling the previously-retired Carson Palmer into the line-up with back-up QB Kyle Boller. Nonetheless, winning games does wonders for building confidence, and at home tonight we can all expect the Chiefs to be looking to even the season series with the Chargers by exploiting any weaknesses they possess. That starts with getting the K.C. defense going against Phillip Rivers, who has shown a rare streak of instability when pressured this season, and seems to have lost his calm, casual demeanor in the pocket. The Chiefs also must do better at protecting against the run, allowing 125.5 yards/game so far this season, including giving up 2 TDs to Ryan Mathews in Week 3, but as they’re also putting up 129.3 yards/game (including 145 yards/game during their win streak), however this aspect of the game may not be as critical for the Chiefs as protecting against the passing game, especially if Rivers decides to come out of his funk and have a break-out game on Monday Night.

Kansas City has been owned by the San Diego Chargers over the past years, losing 7 times out of 8, though interestingly enough the last victory for the Chiefs came in last season’s Monday Night match-up at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs perennially have played their best football at home, racking up an 8-2 record in their last 10 games there, and after showing that they have no trouble hanging with San Diego this season (as was evident in a 20-17 close road loss), tonight’s match-up could have the makings of a pivotal turning point in both teams’ seasons. With a victory, K.C. will move into the top spot in the AFC West, while at the same time putting the Chargers down for two straight losses ahead of a tough string of games against Green Bay, Oakland and Chicago. The Chiefs could theoretically rip off a string of six straight wins ahead, with games against the winless Miami Dolphins and the challenged Denver Broncos to come, thus making tonight’s game at home just that much more important to win. After those favorable games, the Chiefs likely face one of the toughest schedules for the remainder of the year, having to play at New England, Chicago and the New York Jets, and also bringing in Pittsburgh and Green Bay before divisional play closes the season with games against Oakland and Denver again. The time is certainly now for Kansas City, but the big questions for them remain whether or not quarterback Matt Cassel can step up and lead his Chiefs against a San Diego team looking to right its ship, and whether or not the Arrowhead faithful can help support a defense that is truly susceptible against one of the best offenses in the NFL.

Betting Lines for the San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs

WagerWeb.com Sportsbook is our go-to online sports betting destination to kick off another Monday Night Football game, and checking out the lines at this top sportsbook finds a close game expected with the incoming Chargers just a slight favorite on the money line at -160 odds. Kansas City looks to be a good underdog pick at +140 odds at home, while the spread leans to give K.C. +3 points to work with at -110 odds while San Diego gives up 3 points at the same odds. The over/under for tonight’s MNF showdown sits at 44 1/2 points, which could be very easily tested given the weakness against the run for both teams as of late, as well as a good possibility of seeing a breakout from San Diego’s high-powered offense on the road.

Our Pick to Win:

While San Diego has the better all-around team by the numbers, and certainly has more talented names dotting their line-up, there’s something to be said for a scrappy team playing with home field advantage on a big national stage. If you want an example, just look to last week’s ho-hum Monday Night Football affair where the Jacksonville Jaguars frustrated the Baltimore Ravens in a 12-7 home win, despite being vastly overmatched by both the Ravens offense and defense. Of concern in this match-up however is whether or not Kansas City can hold back the tide of Phillip Rivers and his offensive assets, should the Chargers pick a Monday Night Football game to get their wheels churning again. Expecting the running game to be basically equal between the two teams, it really comes down to who makes the fewest mistakes, and which QB keeps the ball moving the best while commanding a full 4 quarter game. We’re reluctant to hedge a bet on Rivers coming back into form tonight, and thus we’ll shoot for a lower scoring game than expected to settle under the 44 point over/under mark at WagerWeb.com, but with so many ways to score for the Chargers, we’ll put our mark down on San Diego to win on the road at Kansas City tonight, 24-17.

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