Trying to Stay Alive
Kansas City, MO - There's no margin for error as the San Diego Chargers try to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Against the Kansas City Chiefs, though, they can probably afford a few mistakes and still come out on top.
Needing to win out and get help to make the postseason, the Chargers look to take advantage of a lowly-but-opportunistic Chiefs team Sunday as the AFC West rivals wrap up their season series.
Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook Sportsbook.com have made the Chargers –5 point spread favorites for Sunday’s game against the Chiefs. Current NFL Public Betting Information shows that 78% of more than 5,375 bets for this game have been placed on the Chargers –5.
San Diego (5-8) needs to win its last three games and have Denver lose its final three to make the playoffs. A division title is the Chargers' only way in, and they host the AFC West-leading Broncos on Dec. 28 in their regular-season finale.
"We've got to win first and foremost," San Diego quarterback Phillip Rivers said. "We can control us and only us. However it plays out, we're going to play hard all the way to the end. We're fighting to hopefully finish at .500 and never know if we'll play more after that or not. We're going to keep fighting."
A Kansas City win over Denver last Sunday would have given San Diego slightly more hope, but the Chiefs (2-11) lost 24-17.
Kansas City is one of the league's worst teams, but has been excellent at creating turnovers.
The Chiefs intercepted Jay Cutler for the only takeaway in their game against the Broncos. They won the turnover battle 2-0 in a 20-19 loss to the Chargers on Nov. 9, intercepting two of Rivers' passes.
Kansas City is tied for eighth in the NFL with 24 takeaways (13 fumbles, 11 interceptions).
San Diego, meanwhile, had a 4-1 turnover edge in a 34-7 win over Oakland on Dec. 4, snapping a three-game losing streak with its second win in seven games.
Rivers was 10-of-22 for 214 yards and had three touchdown passes. He is 3-2 as a starter against Kansas City, while going 10-1 against the rest of the AFC West.
Rivers is seeking to become the first Chargers quarterback to lead the team to back-to-back wins at Arrowhead Stadium since Dan Fouts won there in 1980 and '81. He's having a career season, completing 63.9 percent of his passes for 3,169 yards and 26 TDs against 10 interceptions.
San Diego's strong passing attack, though, doesn't seem to be loosening up defenses for running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who's having the worst season of his career.
Tomlinson had 91 yards and a TD against the Raiders, but averaged 3.6 yards per carry. Against Atlanta on Nov. 30, he was held to a season-low 24 yards on 14 carries.
Tomlinson had rushed for at least 132 yards in three straight games against the Chiefs before being held to 78 in November's meeting.
Chiefs star Larry Johnson, meanwhile, was held to 36 yards on 11 carries against Denver. Johnson did not play in the season's first matchup with San Diego, serving a one-game suspension imposed by the NFL for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
Johnson has rushed for 470 yards in his last four games against the Chargers. His re-emergence has helped take some of the burden off first-year starter Tyler Thigpen.
Thigpen has played in 11 games, making eight starts, and has passed for 1,926 yards and 14 TDs with eight INTs. Versus the Chargers, Thigpen passed for 266 yards and three TDs without throwing a pick.
He's one of the players who will be watched closely down the stretch as the Chiefs and coach Herm Edwards look toward next year.
"We went into this season with one thing in mind: We were going to play a bunch of our young guys and draft choices and rebuild our football program," Edwards said. "I think with that we expected to be a little bit better than where we are right now. But what we also understood was that we wanted to continue to improve and we've done that. I think we've done that in the last five or six weeks."
Kansas City still has some veteran leadership on offense with Johnson and tight end Tony Gonzalez. The nine-time Pro Bowler is on pace to finish the season with 96 catches for 1,081 yards, which would make him the first tight end in NFL history with four 1,000-yard seasons.
Gonzalez has 20 catches for 253 yards and two TDs in his last two games against the Chargers.
Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
SAN DIEGO is 18-16 against the spread versus KANSAS CITY since 1992
KANSAS CITY is 19-15 straight up against SAN DIEGO since 1992
21 of 34 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
KANSAS CITY is 3-2 against the spread versus SAN DIEGO over the last 3 seasons
SAN DIEGO is 3-2 straight up against KANSAS CITY over the last 3 seasons
3 of 5 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at KANSAS CITY since 1992
KANSAS CITY is 8-8 against the spread versus SAN DIEGO since 1992
KANSAS CITY is 12-4 straight up against SAN DIEGO since 1992
9 of 16 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at KANSAS CITY over the last 3 seasons.
KANSAS CITY is 1-1 against the spread versus SAN DIEGO over the last 3 seasons
KANSAS CITY is 1-1 straight up against SAN DIEGO over the last 3 seasons
1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries
[FB] Mike Tolbert is downgraded to doubtful - Shoulder - 12/02/08
[WR] Buster Davis IR - Groin - 11/20/08
[DB] Steve Gregory is upgraded to probable - Stinger - 12/03/08
[OL] Kris Dielman is upgraded to probable - Flu - 12/03/08
[WR] Malcom Floyd is upgraded to probable - Shoulder - 12/02/08
[LB] Shawne Merriman IR - Knee - 09/10/08
[LB] Marques Harris injured last game, %27?%27 - Hamstring - 12/01/08
[DB] Clinton Hart injured last game, %27?%27 - Stinger - 12/01/08
[RB] Kolby Smith IR - Knee - 11/09/08
[C] J.P. Darche IR - Knee - 10/30/08
(!) [QB] Brodie Croyle IR - Knee - 10/19/08
[LB] Pat Thomas missed last game, "?" - Hamstring - 11/30/08
[LB] Donnie Edwards missed last game, "?" - Hamstring - 11/30/08
[OG] Adrian Jones missed last game, "?" - Ankle - 11/30/08
[CB] Patrick Surtain missed last game, "?" - Quad - 11/30/08
[QB] Damon Huard IR - Hand - 10/22/08
[DE] Turk McBride IR - Shoulder - 11/20/08
Posted: 12/10/08 4:43PM ET