1. Protect Mahomes
The second-year man with one NFL start under his belt figures to go through bouts of inconsistency at some point, but being under duress will only make it tougher for him to get comfortable running an offense in which he’s had limited experience. The Chargers ranked fifth in the NFL in sacks (43) last season, and both Joey Bosa (12.5) and Melvin Ingram (10.5) ranked among the top 15 individually.
2. Win the turnover battle
A key in most games, but you need look no further than last season to see how the Chiefs have dominated the turnover count and translated it into victories over the Chargers. Last season, the Chiefs did not lose a fumble or throw an interception in either of the two games between the teams. Meanwhile, they forced Philip Rivers into six interceptions — he threw 10 all of last season — and recovered a fumble to earn seven takeaways in two games.
3. Limit Keenan Allen
Allen ranked among the top 10 in the NFL in catches (102, fourth) and receiving yards (1,393, third), but he has eclipsed 100 yards receiving just once in six career games against the Chiefs. He caught nine passes for 124 yards in his first game against the Chiefs in November 2013, and the Chargers won. In his past four games against the Chiefs, he has averaged 5.5 catches and 59 yards per game.
4. Pressure the passer
With so much change and inconsistency in the secondary during the preseason on top of the likelihood that All-Pro safety Eric Berry will not play, the Chiefs cannot afford to let Philip Rivers sit in a clean pocket and step into throws for four quarters. The KC run defense seemed to improve during the offseason, but a pass rush could be the difference in a win or Rivers breaking his losing streak against the Chiefs.
The Chargers’ scheme
Coach: Anthony Lynn
A former all-conference running back at Texas Tech, Lynn played 83 games in the NFL from 1992-99. He was part of two Super Bowl championship teams as a player with Denver. He turned to coaching in 2000 and worked up the ranks as a running backs coach. He also held the title of assistant head coach for one season with the New York Jets, as he did in two seasons with Buffalo.
He was Buffalo’s interim head coach for the final game of 2016. Buffalo led the NFL in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in each of his two seasons. After an 0-4 start with the Chargers last season, his team won nine of its final 12 games, including six of the last seven.
Last season, the Chargers lined up with three wide receivers, one running back and one tight end 57 percent of the time — slightly less than the league average of 59 percent.
Quarterback Philip Rivers worked out of the shotgun primarily, as 66 percent of team’s offensive snaps came out of the shotgun compared to 34 percent under center. They ran almost 75 percent of the time with the quarterback under center. Ken Whisenhunt will move receivers around in order to dictate matchups or force coverage vulnerabilities that wide receiver Keenan Allen can exploit.
Coordinator Gus Bradley, the former Jacksonville head coach, runs a 4-3 scheme that uses some 3-4 principles. Bradley worked under Pete Carroll in Seattle at the height of the “Legion of Boom” defense.
They’ll put eight men in the box to stop the run and play a mix of zone (cover 3) and lock their corners in bump-and-run coverage. They’ll rely on a four-man rush and line stunts to get pressure. They rushed four 74 percent of the time in 2017. Only Jacksonville and Cincinnati blitzed less frequently.