KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With all due respect to the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos, who currently sit atop the AFC West standings, the division title runs through Kansas City until further notice.
And most NFL observers still expect the Los Angeles Chargers to provide the biggest challenge to the throne.
The Raiders have impressed with early wins against the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, while the Broncos’ defense is stout and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is steady.
Nonetheless, the expectation is that the Chiefs-Chargers winner will take command of the AFC West race Sunday — a noon kickoff on GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
Los Angeles started the season with a road win at the Washington Football Team before falling against the Dallas Cowboys at home.
Quarterback Justin Herbert has thrown more interceptions (three) than touchdowns (two), but Chargers bring a bevy of weapons to town — Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and running back Larry Rountree III, a former University of Missouri standout among them — and face a Chiefs defense still searching for solid footing after getting gashed in the run game by Cleveland and Baltimore.
The red zone may make all the difference. The Chargers have struggled to score touchdowns from inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, while the Chiefs have yet to prevent an opponent’s red-zone drive from ending in the end zone.
Los Angeles also brings the NFL’s best third-down offense to town, another situation that bears monitoring for Kansas City’s defense in another key early-season test.
The Chiefs — who have been to three straight AFC title games, won Super Bowl LIV and lost in Super Bowl LV — 2021 schedule is front-loaded with tough matchups (at least on paper).
Fan anxiety has reached a fever pitch after Kansas City got roughed up with a patchwork offensive line in the Super Bowl, struggled in the first half against the Browns and blew an 11-point fourth-quarter lead at the Ravens.
A loss would send that angst into overdrive, while a win would calm some nerves and position the Chiefs well for the push toward a record sixth straight AFC West crown.
Here’s the tale of the tape for the Chargers at Chiefs I in 2021:
Los Angeles Chargers (1-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-1)
When (TV/radio): 12 p.m. (CBS/106.5-FM The Wolf)
|Passing yards/game||333.5 (2)||323.5 (4)|
|Completion %||76.1 (4)||70.5 (11)|
|QB rating||131.4 (2)||86.1 (24)|
|TD-Interception ratio||6-1 (4)||2-3 (25)|
|Rushing yards/game||67.5 (29)||92.5 (23)|
|Rushing yards/carry||3.3 (29)||3.9 (21)|
|Rushing TD||2 (7)||1 (18)|
|Scoring avg.||34.0 (3)||18.5 (27)|
|Scoring %||55.6 (2)||50.0 (5)|
|Third-down %||52.6 (4)||61.3 (1)|
|Red-zone %||66.7 (14)||30.0 (31)|
|Turnover ratio||+2 (4)||-2 (26)|
|Points/drive||3.44 (1)||2.25 (14)|
|Passing yards/game||267.0 (20)||177.0 (4)|
|Completion %||72.2 (27)||77.1 (31)|
|QB rating||97.5 (15)||89.5 (10)|
|Passing yards/attempt||10.4 (30)||7.8 (22)|
|TD-Interception ratio||1-3 (2)||1-1 (4)|
|Rushing yards/game||202.0 (32)||162.0 (30)|
|Rushing yards/carry||6.0 (32)||5.6 (31)|
|Rushing TD||7 (32)||2 (16)|
|Scoring avg.||32.5 (28)||18.0 (7)|
|Scoring %||50.0 (27)||47.1 (24)|
|Third-down %||44.4 (24)||45.0 (25)|
|Red-zone %||100.0 (32)||60.0 (15)|
|Points/drive||3.30 (32)||2.12 (16)|
Fans who plan to be indoors at Arrowhead Stadium must wear a mask under the Kansas City, Missouri, health order, which has been extended through Oct. 7.
Leavenworth native Melissa Ethridge, an Oscar- and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, will sing the national anthem and Kansas City, Kansas, native Eric Stonestreet, an actor and comedian who starred on “Modern Family,” will be the Drum Honoree.
The game also serves as a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month with five Latino groups scheduled to perform at halftime as part of the Latinx Heritage Showcase.
A Spanish-language broadcast produced by Tico Sports will air on 103.3-FM Hot 103 Jamz and 105.9-FM La Ke Buena.
Parking, stadium entry and all concession/merchandise transactions are cashless inside Arrowhead.
The parking lot opens at 7:30 a.m., stadium gates open at 10 a.m., and the teams will begin warming up at 11 a.m.
The “4th & 1” podcast is the twice-weekly, Chiefs-centric podcast from KSHB 41, the official broadcast “Home of the Chiefs.” Co-hosts Nick Jacobs and Tod Palmer analyze and breakdown the Chiefs’ opponent and performance for pre- and post-game episodes — available on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or your preferred podcast platform — each week during the season.