Weather forecast: Sunny, with a high near 73. Northeast wind around 5 mph becoming northwest in the morning.
Line: Chargers -9.5, Over/Under: 44.5
The Chiefs are 8-7 ATS.
The Chiefs are 6-1 ATS away.
The Chiefs are 1-2 ATS as the underdog.
The Chiefs are 1-1 ATS as an away underdog.
The Chargers are 9-5 ATS.
The Chargers are 5-2 ATS at home.
The Chargers are 3-2 ATS as the favorite.
The Chargers are 2-0 ATS as a home favorite.
Chiefs: The Chiefs defense was the engine that drove the team to a 9-0 start in which they did not allow an opponent more than 17 points. Then came a 27-17 loss to Denver, but it was the first meeting against the Chargers where the tide turned with Andy Reid's defense. San Diego scorched the Chiefs for 491 yards, including 387 net passing yards by QB Philip Rivers with three touchdown passes. The Chargers scored 41 points and since then the Chiefs have given up 35 and 31 points.
That game was the first time all season in which the Kansas City offense showed it could handle a shootout, as they scored 38 points, Smith had three touchdown passes and Charles had 189 touches (What?) for 157 yards. For the Chiefs to win this game, they must play better defense than they have over the last five weeks.
Chargers: The Chiefs have a sturdy defense, we know that. But there is a bit of weak spot in their run defense, and running the ball of late, is what the Chargers have been doing best.
As long as running back Ryan Mathews' ankle is up to the task, the Chargers figure to attack the Chiefs in that manner. Mathews is having a career year, and it's proven with a career-high 1,111 yards this season.
With the front line as healthy as it has been all season, the Chargers could lean on the running game to limit turnovers and keep Philip Rivers upright as well.
Chiefs: "You're trying to win every single game you possibly can in this league. There are only 16 of them; these are such rare opportunities. Regardless of who is out there, we're trying to go out there and win the game. This is a division game. This is a team in San Diego that's trying to get in the playoffs as well, so this is a chance for us to get a lot of things done." -- Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith talking about Sunday's regular season finale against San Diego.
Chargers: "All I know is that our players are going to prepare just like they did last week to win the game. And there's TV's around, I'm not going to lie. There's TV's around in the locker room. I don't worry about that. We have enough leaders in here. We understand what's at stake, regardless of what happens in the games before us, we're going to win."" -- Chargers coach Mike McCoy on if the players will peek at the Miami and Baltimore games before taking on the Chiefs.
-- Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith vs. Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen: In the first meeting between these teams, Allen had nine catches for 124 yards as the Chargers ended up throwing for 387 yards and three touchdowns, including the winning score with 31 seconds to play. Chiefs defenders like Smith had trouble covering Allen, but then Smith has had trouble covering anybody most of the second half of the season. Last week in the second half of the Chiefs' loss to Indianapolis, Smith was benched after being called for two holding calls within five plays of each other.
-- Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert or Donald Stephenson vs. Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget: Albert has missed the past three games after suffering a hyperextended left knee on Dec. 1 in a game against Denver. He's been practicing for two weeks and his game-day status will depend on just how Reid decides to handle his starters in a meaningless regular-season finale. Stephenson is in his second season after being selected in the 2012 NFL Draft in the third round out of Oklahoma. His play as Albert's replacement has been inconsistent. Liuget has been a solid contributor to the Chargers defense at right end. He played well in the first meeting with the Chiefs, with several plays where he pressured Smith and forced an early release of the ball.
--Chargers pass protection, which has been solid all season vs. Chiefs pass rush which features LB Tamba Hali.
The Chargers survived Hali, and teammate Juston Houston, in the earlier matchup. But they got a break when both left the game early with injuries. Hali is back; Houston remains down. The Chargers' pass protection is among the big reasons quarterback Philip rivers is having such a good season. But Hali figures to want to get a piece of him after being stymied last month.
Although it will be interesting to see how much Chiefs coach Andy Reid lets Hali play. Just last week the Broncos lost one of their top pass-rushers, Von Miller, to an injury for the playoffs. Reid obviously took note and might limit Hali's field time. Also keep an eye on the tight ends blocking and chipping in helping out the front line. The Chargers lost their best blocking tight end when John Phillips wrecked his knee on Sunday.
--Chargers front seven vs. Chiefs offense which revolves around RB Jamaal Charles.
The Chargers knew all about what Charles can do as the film they studying last week on the Raiders had one highlight after another in it of Charles scoring five touchdowns. The front seven has played well of late, with Sean Lissemore replacing Cam Thomas as the starting tackle and the improved play of rookie inside linebacker Manti Te'o.
James accounts for nearly 80 percent of the team's handoffs and we know what he can do when catching a short pass. So it's imperative for the team's front seven to maintain an outside edge and try and force him inside to the linebackers.
ESPN Game Preview:
Locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs, the Kansas City Chiefs don't have much to play for in Sunday's regular-season finale at San Diego.
While that certainly bodes well for the Chargers' postseason hopes, they could already be eliminated by the time kickoff rolls around.
Set to hit the road for a wild-card game in two weeks, Chiefs coach Andy Reid is debating whether to play his starters or keep them on the sidelines.
"If you look at the history of it, it's about a 50-50 shot over the last three or four years of people who have done it. It's what you're most comfortable with as a coach," Reid said. "The obvious benefit is you rest your guys. You kind of get back a little fresher than what they were at the end of the season. You take a risk of the timing part of it. So those are the things that you have to evaluate.
"... This is one of those decisions you make, it's a bit of a gut feeling you go with."
While Sunday's matchup is virtually meaningless for Kansas City (11-4), San Diego (8-7) could be playing for a playoff berth. Besides needing to beat the Chiefs, the Chargers must have Miami and Baltimore lose or tie in order to clinch the conference's second wild-card spot.
San Diego could also get in with a tie plus losses by the Dolphins and Ravens, who both play at 1:00 pm EST. Miami hosts the New York Jets while Baltimore visits Cincinnati.
"We have a lot of work ahead of us before that time and we have to beat the Kansas City Chiefs," coach Mike McCoy said. "If we don't beat them, we're not in. That's our No. 1 concern right now. Win this game this weekend."
The Chargers' game plan won't change even if they are eliminated beforehand.
"There's only one person happy at the end of the year and that's the team who's holding the trophy at the end," McCoy said. "So that's always your No. 1 goal. You always want to try and win as many games as you can and get in that tournament."
Top rusher Ryan Mathews is expected to play despite missing practice with an injured left ankle. Mathews has run for a career-high 1,111 yards, including 329 over the past three weeks, and now looks to play all 16 games for the first time in his four-year career.
"He'll be ready," McCoy said. "He's got a great frame of mind right now. I'm looking forward to him having another big game."
San Diego could catch a break if Reid decides to rest Jamaal Charles, who leads the NFL with 19 total touchdowns after scoring 11 over the past five games. Charles has 794 yards from scrimmage during that span and is averaging 132.0 this season, ranking second in the league behind LeSean McCoy (134.1).
Charles, though, hasn't heard anything regarding his status for Sunday.
"Man, I don't have nothing to do with it," he said. "We still want to win. We've got one more game to play before the playoffs."
The Chiefs opened 9-0 but have since dropped four of six after falling 23-7 to Indianapolis last Sunday. Charles had a 31-yard touchdown run on Kansas City's first drive.
San Diego is coming off its season-high third consecutive victory, 26-13 over Oakland last Sunday. Mathews compiled 119 total yards and a touchdown.
"I'm just trying to work hard and be there for my teammates, and that's all that matters," he said. "I try to be as good as I can be for the linemen up front. They block their tails off."
Mathews leads the NFL with 97 carries since Week 13, and the Chargers are 5-0 this year when he has at least 20. They're 5-1 when he scores a rushing TD compared to 3-6 when he doesn't.
Mathews found the end zone as San Diego handed Kansas City its first home loss, 41-38 on Nov. 24. Philip Rivers threw for 392 yards and three touchdowns.
Rivers has a 126.1 passer rating as the Chargers have won the last three meetings. He's helped San Diego take 10 of 12 in the series, including five in a row at home by an average of 16.4 points.