Week 15 of the NFL season begins with a critical grudge match in the AFC West between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers. Kickoff is set for 8:20 EST on Thursday, December 13, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The game will be broadcast nationally on Fox.
The Chiefs have opened the week as 3.5-point favorites at home. The over/under for the contest is set at 53 points. Click here to check out all of the Week 15 betting odds.
The Chiefs pulled off a great escape last week against the Ravens, winning 27-24 overtime thanks in part to an unreal no-look pass by Patrick Mahomes. That win combined with results elsewhere gave Kansas City a two-game cushion with regard to the best record in the AFC. With at least two wins in their final three games, Kansas City will lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Also, a win on Thursday will officially clinch the AFC West title for the Chiefs.
That being said, Kansas City’s remaining schedule isn’t so straightforward. After hosting the Chargers on Thursday, they still have to travel to Seattle the following week. The Chiefs will also finish the season in another rivalry game against the Raiders, a team they only beat by a touchdown a couple weeks ago. In short, there are still ways for the Chiefs to trip up down the stretch.
Meanwhile, the 10-3 Chargers have spent the last two months looking forward to Thursday’s game. With a win, not only would Los Angeles clinch a playoff spot, but it would pull them into a tie with Kansas City for first place in the AFC West and the best record in the AFC. Depending on what happens during the final two weeks of the season, the Chargers would still have a chance to earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Of course, even if the Chargers win on Thursday, they also have a home game against the Ravens and a road game against the Broncos left on their schedule. There’s no guarantee they would hold serve in both of those games. However, none of it matters if the Chargers don’t first beat the Chiefs on Thursday.
It’s worth mentioning that the Chiefs have a nine-game winning streak over the Chargers. That includes a 38-28 win back in Week 1. With a win on Thursday, Kansas City will sweep the season series for five straight seasons. Of course, the Chargers are more motivated than ever to break that losing streak against their division rivals.
After a season of lopsided Thursday night games, this one has a good chance to remain close and competitive. The Chiefs keep winning, but they’ve looked a little vulnerable the past couple of weeks, which makes the 3.5-point spread seem like a lot. With the Chargers set to give everything they have in this game, I like L.A. to at least beat the spread, if not pull off the upset.
To be fair, the Chargers are dealing with some serious injury problems at the moment. Melvin Gordon has missed the last two games with a knee injury and now backup Austin Ekeler is unlikely to play on Thursday. There’s cautious optimism that Gordon will be able to play. But if Gordon can’t go, the Chargers will have to lean on rookie Justin Jackson, who was limited to 12 yards on seven carries against a bad Cincinnati defense last week.
The silver lining for Los Angeles is that they’re usually not afraid to put the game in the hands of Philip Rivers. While he’s been a little overshadowed by Mahomes this year, Rivers has put up some phenomenal numbers, already throwing for over 3,600 yards while limiting himself to six interceptions. He also threw for over 400 yards against the Chiefs in Week 1, so he’s capable of carrying the Chargers against a Kansas City defense that has plenty of holes.
On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs are still learning how to get by without Kareem Hunt. Backup running back Spencer Ware is also battling an injury. Ware is a suitable replacement for Hunt, but if he can’t play on Thursday, the Chiefs may have to rely on the largely untested Damien Williams. Tyreek Hill was also hobbled last week and may be less than 100% health-wise, which could hurt the Chiefs in a game that’s likely to turn into a shootout.
It’s also worth noting that the Los Angeles defense is in a little better shape than they were when these teams met in Week 1. Joey Bosa is now healthy and has already made an impact, collecting four sacks over the last three games, giving the Chargers a more formidable pass rush. The Chargers may also be a little better prepared to face Mahomes and company after facing them earlier in the year.
While Thursday games often end up being one-sided, this matchup has all the makings of a close game. After they were a little fortunate to beat the Ravens last week, the Chiefs could be poised for a loss, and the Chargers are the kind of team that can beat them. I like my chances with Los Angeles keeping up in a shootout and at least beating the spread in this game.