NFL

NFL: Patrick Mahomes Among 3 Things to Watch For in Chiefs vs. Chargers

Week 11 action is all but over that will conclude with a potentially highly entertaining Monday night AFC West showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers playing in Mexico City at Estadio Azteca. The matchup will have plenty of playoff implications on the line as a win would significantly impact both teams’ postseason hopes. In the hours ahead of the contest, here are a few aspects that could have a significant influence on how the pivotal game unfolds.

3. Phillip Rivers’ struggles against AFC West

Throughout his career, Phillip Rivers has had difficulties facing his AFC West division rivals that have featured plenty of ups and downs. That has certainly been the case in 2019 as the Chargers have dropped their first two contests within their division.

Rivers’ struggles have been at the forefront as he threw five interceptions while fumbling once over that span. He’s coming off a disappointing showing against the Oakland Raiders, where he threw three interceptions that proved to be the difference.

The 37-year-old has historically struggled against the Chiefs, with 13 losses in 27 career regular-season games. But the last time Rivers played Kansas City; he put together a comeback win on the road behind two late touchdown drives in that Week 14 meeting last season.

2. Patrick Mahomes’ effectiveness against Chargers’ secondary

Following a two-game absence due to a dislocated kneecap, reigning league MVP Patrick Mahomes made his return to the field in Week 10 against the Tennessee Titans. Although the Chiefs suffered a disappointing loss, Mahomes picked back up where he left off throwing for 446 yards with three touchdowns.

It’s no secret that Kansas City’s success lies directly on Mahomes’ shoulders, which has raised the importance for Week 11 action. It should draw some optimism that he has put up strong performances against the Chargers in his two appearances with 499 passing yards and six touchdowns along with holding a 122.2 passer rating.

Los Angeles has played quite well, even without star safety Derwin James as they rank fourth against the pass heading into Monday’s contest. It will be a point of emphasis for Mahomes to test their secondary that is allowing a league-worst 71.7 percent completion rate and opposing quarterbacks to hold a 100.5 passer rating.

The Chiefs will likely look to stretch the field with deep throws down the field utilizing their speedy wideouts in Tyreek Hill and rookie Mecole Hardman. Mahomes’ success with his arm should dictate the overall flow of the game.

1. Melvin Gordon’s impact against Chiefs’ rush defense

Through the first few games of Melvin Gordon’s return from his extended contract holdout, he struggled to find his footing. That had all come to a head after his game-losing fumble against the Titans.

However, Gordon appears to have found his stride over the last couple of games as he has tallied 242 total scrimmage yards with six touchdowns. The bulk of his work has come on the ground with 188 rushing yards, which he’s fresh off cracking the century mark for the first time in 2019 with 108 yards against the Raiders.

The Chargers have longed for that type of production from their star running back since his return. Gordon has a highly favorable matchup ahead of him against the Chiefs, who rank 30th in the league both in giving up 148.1 yards per contest and 12 total rushing touchdowns. Kansas City is also 31st allowing 5.1 yards per carry.

The optics are certainly there for Gordon to put his fingerprints all over this contest in the ground game. That will remain hinged on the Chargers sticking hard with running the ball in their offensive game plan. Ultimately, the pieces are in place for the Pro Bowler to add another stellar performance to his recent upward surge.