5. Kansas City Chiefs host the Los Angeles Chargers on TNF.
It seems silly now, but there was a time not so very long ago when the world didn’t know what Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was capable of. Kansas City was fresh off a demoralizing playoff loss to the wild card Tennessee Titans, Alex Smith was a newly-minted Washington Redskin, and Mahomes was a 22-year-old kid with just one NFL start under his belt.
Fast forward three months, and Mahomes is neck-and-neck with Drew Brees in the MVP race and leading the NFL with 43 touchdown passes. As it stands, he’s on pace for 53 scores by year’s end, which would be the second-highest total in history if he can get there.
Standing in the way of that record, at least this week, is the Los Angeles Chargers, a team no one wants to see come January. L.A. quarterback Philip Rivers is an MVP candidate in his own right, and his team rides into Arrowhead bristling with confidence and a 10-3 record. Star running back Melvin Gordon is rumored to potentially return from injury this week; if he plays, it’s a huge boon to a scoring offense currently ranked 5th in the NFL.
With or without Gordon, the Chargers will need to play their best game of the season to upset the Chiefs on the road – not to mention break a 9-game losing streak against their rivals that dates all the way back to 2014. A win over Kansas City would give both teams matching 11-3 records and set up a true race to the finish for the division crown.
But there’s more at stake than just the AFC West on Thursday night… and this is where the Patriots come in. Whoever wins the West is the odds-on favorite to finish atop the conference standings as well, which equates to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
If I’m Bill Belichick and the Patriots, I’m pulling for the Chargers in this one. No disrespect to Rivers, Gordon, and the rest of the Bolts’ talented team, but should the Patriots find themselves advancing to the AFC Championship Game on the road this year, they’d have to prefer playing at tiny StubHub Center in Carson, California, over the raucous, unwelcoming atmosphere of Arrowhead Stadium.
Too many bad memories at that house of horrors anyway…