Ready for a Run

Last week, it was the Oakland Raiders. This week, it was the Denver Broncos. The Bolts' division co-tenants have brought the first place Chiefs back to the pack, setting up a wild finish in the AFC West.

The Broncos throttled the Chiefs in Denver, 49-29, creating a tie atop the division between the 5-4 Chiefs and 5-4 Raiders. The Chargers sit one game back at 4-5 while the Broncos are now two back at 3-6.

All four teams are meeting in the middle, but San Diego is best suited to separate itself from the pack.

Over the next four weeks, the Chargers will face each of their AFC West foes in the friendly confines of Qualcomm Stadium. San Diego will have several core players back from injury, including Antonio Gates (foot), Kris Dielman (neck), Malcom Floyd (hamstring), Legedu Naanee (hamstring) and Brandon Siler (foot). Vincent Jackson, still on the roster exempt list, will be back for the games vs. the Raiders and Chiefs.

QB Philip Rivers
G. Newman Lowrance/Getty
This is a chance for the Chargers, currently 0-2 in the AFC West, to reassert their divisional dominance. Prior to this season, San Diego had won six of eight against Denver, five straight against Kansas City and thirteen in a row against Oakland. That impressive run is the main reason the Chargers won five division titles in the last six seasons, including each of the last four.

The calendar also works in the Chargers' favor. Their chances for redemption against the Raiders and Chiefs both come in December, a month in which QB Philip Rivers has never lost.

San Diego's non-division schedule is friendly the rest of the way. Other than a Week 12 road game against the Indianapolis Colts, a team the Chargers always match up well against, the other games are at home versus San Francisco and at Cincinnati, two teams with a combined 5-13 record.

The Chargers end the season with their second game versus the Broncos. The last time San Diego played Denver in a meaningful game in Week 17 (2008), the Bolts rolled, 52-21.

There is still a very real chance the Chargers will not win the division. San Diego has a lot of problems -- lackadaisical special teams, a very tepid pass rush, fumble-prone running backs, etc. -- that could appear again down the stretch.

But given the team's 2-5 start, the Chargers are now in better position than they could have ever hoped for.

Will the Chargers rally to win the division? Discuss inside the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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