KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Quarterback Chase Daniel will make his second career start on Sunday as the Chiefs (8-7) try to keep their slim playoff hopes alive against the San Diego Chargers (9-6).
Starting quarterback Alex Smith suffered a lacerated spleen during last week’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, leaving Daniel to start for the second time against the Chargers in a Week 17 game with the playoffs on the line.
But while he doesn’t have much starting experience, Daniel isn’t fazed by the big stage.
“I see it as every game that you possibly can play and play in the NFL, is a big game,” Daniel said. “For us, we have to take care of business. We can’t worry about anything else but the San Diego Chargers. They are preparing the same way.”
The starting quarterback is not the only big story in Kansas City.
The Chiefs are still mathematically alive for the playoffs, but need to defeat the Chargers and rely on the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars to win in order to make the postseason.
The Chiefs will play at the same time as the other two games, but defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson says they won’t be scoreboard watching.
“I’m pretty sure they will flash it across the stadium every now and then on the scoreboard,” Vickerson said. “It’s just one game, we need a win, we have to have a win and that’s it.”
Receiver Jason Avant agreed with Vickerson.
“I’m not a scoreboard watcher,” Avant said. “Will you know what’s going on? Yeah, you’ll know what’s going on, but if everybody loses, we want to win, that’s the bottom line, you’re going to go out there. Like a famous coach said that coached here a long time ago: ‘You play to win the game.’”
TALE OF THE TAPE
• The Chiefs rank 10th in rushing (120.5 yards per game) and they rank 28th in passing (202.8 yards per game).
• The Chargers rushing attack ranks 29th (83.7 yards per game) while they rank 9th in passing (256.6 yards per game).
• The Chiefs pass defense is the second-best in the league (200.2 yards per game) and their run defense ranks 28th (128.3 yards per game).
• The Chargers run defense ranks 26th (125 yards per game) and their pass defense ranks 6th (219.1 yards per game).
THE LAST TIME
The Chiefs defeated the Chargers 23-20 in Week 7 at Qualcomm Stadium.
San Diego leads the all-time series with the Chiefs, 55-53-1, and this game marks the 110th meeting between the two teams.
San Diego won last season’s finale against the Chiefs 27-24 in overtime and have won seven of the last 10 games against Kansas City.
CHASE DANIEL STARTS
The Chiefs announced on Friday that starting quarterback Alex Smith suffered a lacerated spleen in last Sunday’s game and will not play this week. Chase Daniel will see his second career start in Smith’s place.
While the team changes quarterbacks on short notice, coach Andy Reid is confident in Daniel’s preparation.
“That’s where you’re fortunate you have Chase here and the guys have a lot of trust in Chase,” Reid said. “He’ll have an opportunity to get out there and play. The guys know Chase and they’re confident in him.”
Despite not getting practice time with starters until Friday, Daniel doesn’t see much of a difference from his usual preparation.
“You want as many reps as you can possibly get, but like I said before, I’ve worked my entire career being the No. 2 and preparing day in and day out like I’m going to be the starter,” Daniel said. “You’re one play away and unfortunately you don’t want these circumstances. This is a chance that you have to be ready for. I know the team believes in me and we will go out there and try to put drives together against a good San Diego defense.”
In his first career start, also against the Chargers in Week 17 last season, Daniel threw for 200 yards and a touchdown and added 59 rushing yards.
Both the Chiefs and Chargers are alive for potential playoff appearances, but the scenarios are far different. The Chargers will make the playoffs with a win.
“If we win, we’re in,” Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers said. “We don’t have to scoreboard watch. We don’t have to worry about who is losing; we know if we come in and take care of business, we’ll be in the tournament. We definitely couldn’t imagine any better position.”
Meanwhile, the Chiefs need a lot of help. In addition to beating the Chargers, the Chiefs must rely on the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns to beat the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens, respectively.
The Jaguars have three wins this season and Browns rookie Connor Shaw will make his first career start at quarterback this week.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid knows that his team can’t be worried about those scenarios.
“You can’t control any of it,” Reid said. “The one thing you can control is your preparation for this game and how you play on Sunday. So that’s where you put all your energy and don’t worry about the things you can’t control.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid on whether there were Christmas lights up at his house:
“My wife does a great job with all of that.”
Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel on starting with a potential playoff appearance on the line:
“Quite honestly, I wouldn’t rather have it any other way to be put in a situation than to go out there with everything on the line. You have to win to get in and obviously we need some help but what we are focused on is winning the game.”
Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers on whether beating the Chiefs would make a potential playoff appearance more special:
Chiefs coach Andy Reid on this week’s scenario being similar to last season’s Week 17 game:
“Yeah that’s kind of weird that it’s the same team. That’s crazy, but it can’t hurt, right? That’s a good thing.”
Between Alex Smith’s injury and potential scoreboard watching for playoff scenarios, the Chiefs have plenty of distractions this week.
That said, Smith’s injury should give the Chiefs reason to rely on the run game and running back Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis more than they have lately.
But while the running game will likely be more prominent, the offense will have to keep up with the Chargers, who have put up 72 points in their last two road games.
Don’t expect the Chiefs wide receivers, who have struggled all season outside of Albert Wilson in recent games, to begin contributing this late.
The Chiefs keep it close early, but the Chargers pull away late to secure their spot in the postseason.
Outcome: Chargers 35, Chiefs 21.