COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers didn’t have much time to celebrate reaching double-digit wins for the first time in nine seasons.
While most teams get 24 hours to savor a victory, the Chargers spent about 24 minutes to revel in their 26-21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals before preparations began for Thursday’s pivotal AFC West matchup at Kansas City.
“I heard some of the guys going back to the facility right now, get in a cold tub, start that. Start watching tape. We have to get going, start shifting gears and hurry,” quarterback Philip Rivers said after the game.
Los Angeles (10-3) goes into the game one game behind the Chiefs (11-2). A win would clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2013 while also keeping its hopes of a division title and possible top seed in the AFC alive.
Even if the Chargers won, Kansas City would hold the tiebreaker based on a better division record. The Chiefs end the season at Seattle and hosting Oakland while the Chargers wrap up with a home game against Baltimore and a trip to Denver.
Kansas City, which has already secured a postseason berth, would clinch the division with a win.
Coach Anthony Lynn is keeping the same preparation plan that he used for last year’s Thanksgiving Day game at Dallas. The Chargers ended up winning that game 28-6.
Monday was a walkthrough and Tuesday will be non-padded before the team travels to Kansas City on Wednesday.
“One of the biggest things about this week is recovery, getting guys to recover and play fast and physical and how you handle that and we always struggle with doing too much and not doing enough. Same thing with X’s and O’s,” Lynn said.
“That’s kind of what we’re doing right now. We’re working to get that balance as best we can and go out and play a football game.”
About the only benefit preparation-wise is that it is a division game. However, the Chiefs have won the past nine in the series.
“I think mentally with a team being in the division, and again, there will be some wrinkles that they’ll have and wrinkles that we’ll have, but at least we know personnel-wise who we are playing,” Rivers said.
“Schematically, for the most part, we know what their base stuff is and they know what our base stuff is. It’s not a matter of, ‘Gosh, we need to dig into this opponent and figure out who they are.’ Now, you still have to get all of your preparation in, in a short period of time, but I think that can get done.”
The biggest concern going into the week is the status of running backs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. Gordon, who is fourth in the league in yards from scrimmage per game (125.5), has missed the past two games because of an MCL sprain to his right knee. Ekeler is in the concussion protocol after reporting symptoms during the walkthrough. Ekeler, who had 66 yards on 15 carries against Cincinnati, was hit in the head by Clayton Fejedelem on an onside kick and also suffered a pinched nerve in his neck.
Lynn said not having a full-speed practice to evaluate Gordon is a bit of a concern, but that the same cuts and moves Gordon would make on the practice field can also be done on the side.
If Gordon and Ekeler are unable to play, rookies Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome would be the running backs. Jackson had 63 yards in the Dec. 2 win at Pittsburgh. Newsome has appeared in only seven games — mostly on special teams — and has only five carries.
The Chargers’ biggest worry defensively is trying to contain quarterback Patrick Mahomes and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Mahomes passed for 256 yards and four touchdowns while Hill scored three touchdowns in a 38-28 win in the regular-season opener on Sept. 9.
Hill has seven touchdowns — five receiving and two on punt returns — in five games against the Chargers.
“They’re a different team and different players, but we’re a different team too,” safety Derwin James said. “Every week Mahomes is getting better too. He’s making some crazy throws. You know what type of guy you are getting this week.”
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