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Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs: 5 players to watch on ‘Thursday Night Football’

Vincent Frank

One of the biggest games on the NFL’s early-season slate takes place on Thursday with the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs doing battle at Arrowhead Stadium in Missouri.

Los Angeles disposed of the division-rival Las Vegas Raiders in Week 1 behind a great performance from Justin Herbert. This team has legitimate Super Bowl aspirations as evidenced by its standing in Sportsnaut’s most-recent NFL power rankings.

As for the Chiefs, they made quick work of an overmatched Arizona Cardinals squad in Week 1. Patrick Mahomes threw five touchdowns before the fourth quarter even started. He didn’t seem to miss Tyreek Hill after the star wide receiver was traded to the Miami Dolphins during the offseason. Kansas City looks like a well-oiled machine.

Below, we give you five players to watch for in this battle between the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs on “Thursday Night Football.”

Related: Sportsnaut’s updated NFL Playoff and Super Bowl predictions

DeAndre Carter must step up for Los Angeles

los angeles chargers at kansas city chiefs thursday night football: deandre carter
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers star wide receiver Keenan Allen has already been ruled out for Thursday night with a hamstring injury he suffered in Week 1. Los Angeles will ask high-priced wide receiver Mike Williams to play a big role in the passing game. However, it’s Carter’s presence that could loom large in this one.

A veteran of five NFL seasons and five teams, Carter has not necessarily made an impact throughout his career. The Sacramento State product’s best season came as a member of the Houston Texans back in 2019 when he recorded 22 receptions for 214 yards in 16 games. With that said, Carter stepped up big time in Week 1 (three catches, 64 yards and a touchdown). He’s looking to have this carry over on a short week.

“It definitely feels good being able to contribute to the team, contribute to a win. Being able to produce and make plays and stuff like that is good. I feel like I’m coming through on my promise to him and making my family proud.”

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver DeAndre Carter ahead of Thursday Night Football

Carter and the Chargers are slated to go up against a Chiefs defense that will be without star rookie first-round pick Trent McDuffie. The cornerback was injured in Week 1 and will miss at least the next four games. This will give Carter an opportunity to continue proving his worth.

Related: Los Angeles Chargers’ Keenan Allen and latest on NFL injuries

Jaylen Watson’s chance to shine for the Kansas City Chiefs

los angeles chargrs at kansas city chiefs: jaylen watson
Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

As noted above, McDuffie is sidelined and will miss at least four games after being placed on injured reserve. This will give rookie seventh-round pick Jaylen Watson a chance to shine in his starting debut Thursday night. It’s more than likely that Watson will go up against Mike Williams. It’s a tough initial task for a player who stood out in the preseason and played well against the Cardinals.

Last week in his NFL debut, the Washington State product played 33 snaps on defense. He allowed just one catch on two targets for six yards while recording two tackles and a pass defended. According to Pro Football Focus, he graded out as the second-best rookie cornerback in Week 1 behind Sauce Gardner. The youngster appears to be more than up to the task.

Related: Los Angeles Chargers schedule and game-by-game predictions

Los Angeles Chargers star Khalil Mack looking to build off dominating Week 1 outing

kansas city chiefs at los angeles chargers: khalil mack
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In Mack’s Chargers debut against his former Raiders team last week, the Pro Bowler was all over quarterback Derek Carr. Mack recorded four quarterback hits, three tackles for loss, three sacks and a forced fumble in his best performance since all the way back in December of 2015.

Mack will have to make an impact going up against Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Brown on “Thursday Night Football.” Los Angeles simply can’t give Mahomes time to eat apart its pass defense. If that were to happen, it would likely lead to a long night for the Chargers’ defense while putting more pressure on Justin Herbert and Co.

Related: Kansas City Chiefs schedule and game-by-game-predictions

Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes enters “Thursday Night Football” riding a high

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Brilliant. Elite. Absolutely awesome. Whatever term we want to use to describe Mahomes’ Week 1 performance, the dude absolutely balled out against Arizona. Mahomes completed 30-of-39 passes for 360 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions. He led Kansas City to 23 first-half points while throwing three touchdowns before intermission.

  • Patrick Mahomes stats (career against Los Angeles Chargers): 62% completion, 1,827 yards, 16 TD, 5 INT, 96.3 QB rating

Of all the three AFC West opponents, Mahomes has had the hardest time against the Chargers. He knows that this will be an especially difficult task Thursday night.

“They’ve won here so they’re not going to be scared to come in here and play. So, we’ve got to come out here with a better mindset. We have to go out there and play better from the start.”

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes on the Los Angeles Chargers

Indeed. Los Angeles took out the Chiefs in Kansas City early last season by the score of 30-24. It’s a game that saw Mahomes and Co. fall down 14-0 in the fist half before taking a 24-21 fourth-quarter lead. That didn’t hold as Herbert found Mike Williams for a game-winning touchdown with 32 seconds remainng. For his part, Mahomes threw two interceptions in the loss.

Related: Los Angeles Chargers’ Justin Herbert and NFL’s top QBs of 2022

Another statement game or Justin Herbert

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As a rookie back in 2020, Herbert was forced into starting duties Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs due to an injury to Tyrod Taylor. He responded by nearly leading Los Angeles to an upset win, only to lose by the score of 23-20. Herbert was great in his debut, too, completing 23-of-33 passes for 311 yards.

Fast forward more than two years, and things have come full circle. He’s no longer wide-eyed rookie quarterback. Instead, Herbert heads into this Week 2 matchup as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and a legitimate MVP candidate. What he did Week 1 against the Raiders magnifies this further.

It’s going to be a whole different ball game on “Thursday Night Football” with Herbert and his Chargers facing a red out in Kansas City. How he handles both the hostile environment and the bright stage of a nationally televised game will tell us what we need to know about Herbert early in the season.