CARSON, Calif. -- More than any other team in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs know how to beat divisional rivals.
The Chiefs have won 11 straight games against their AFC West opponents. Even their last loss within the division, in September 2015 against the Denver Broncos, should have been a victory. The Broncos scored two touchdowns in the final 36 seconds to grab a win that until then looked like it was securely in Kansas City’s possession.
The 2-0 Chiefs play their first divisional game of the season on Sunday against the 0-2 Los Angeles Chargers. They’ve won six straight against the Chargers, earning one triumph in overtime and another on a late field goal, with the other margins of victory by at least seven points.
The Chargers appear to have more going for them than the NFL’s other winless teams, however. While all of the others have a big disparity between points they’ve scored and points they’ve allowed, the Chargers lost one of their games by a field goal and the other by two points. In each contest, the Chargers attempted a late field goal -- once to put the game into overtime and the other time to go ahead. The kick failed both times.
But the Chargers are close. They have much going for them, including bookend pass-rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. They should be of concern, especially since Alex Smith was sacked four times last week by the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Chiefs found Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen impossible to cover in the first half of last year’s season opener. It was only after Allen left the game with a knee injury that the Chiefs were able to slow down the Chargers and rally to victory.
Allen is healthy again. He also should be of concern to the Chiefs, since he dominated Marcus Peters in that contest last season. The Chiefs also are playing without injured starting cornerback Steven Nelson.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is off to a good start, but one big reason the Chiefs have that six-game winning streak against the Chargers is they’ve almost always defended him well. Rivers has five touchdown passes, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 74.6 during that span.
The Chiefs have been giving up a lot of yards and a lot of points, but they’re getting the job done at important times. They had two fourth-down stops against the New England Patriots. They had three sacks and a game-altering turnover in the fourth quarter against the Eagles.
On offense, the Chiefs have a lot working for them. Smith is playing better than he ever has for the Chiefs. The Patriots and Eagles were hard-pressed to hold down Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt for the full 60 minutes.
If the Chiefs were too much to handle for the defending Super Bowl champions and the feisty Eagles, they should be too much for the Chargers, again.
Prediction: Chiefs 27, Chargers 24.