Battle for supremacy

This is the moment you have all been waiting for. In this corner, currently holding the AFC West title, wearing their home colors and weighing in at 8-3, the San Diego Chargers. And their opponent, knocked from the AFC West perch in a loss last week and weighing in at 7-4, the Denver Broncos.

Denver has defeated the AFC West-leading Chargers seven out of the past nine times the teams have met, and by an average of a three-TD margin the last three times, including 23-13 this past September.

But from that game on, the Bolts ignited, winning seven of their past eight, including five in a row.

Chargers quarterback Drew Brees is the league's third-ranked passer (108.0), has thrown 18 touchdowns with one interception in his past eight games, and has formed a lethal tandem with tight end Antonio Gates, who is second in the league in receptions (69) and tied for second in TD catches (11).

"Things are so much better now because guys can't just focus on me" says Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who is tied for second in the league with 11 rushing TDs. "They've got many other weapons to worry about. It feels good to look up and Drew hits Antonio way down the field, or Keenan McCardell."

Of course, the Broncos have weapons too. Quarterback Jake Plummer – 8-2 against the AFC West in his two years in Denver – is tied with Favre for the fourth-most TD passes in the league (22) while being sacked only seven times, third fewest in the league. And surprise running back Reuben Droughns, who entered 2004 with the grand total of 97 rushing yards in four NFL seasons, is on pace for 1,376.

Fourth-quarter matchup: Something's got to give in the final quarter. The Chargers – the league's second-highest-scoring club (319 points behind Indianapolis' 380) have registered more points in the fourth quarter than any other (86, third-most in the NFL). The Broncos have allowed the NFL's third fewest fourth-quarter points (38).

"Denver has been very good on third down and very good in the gold zone," said Brees. "That is two areas where we have been very strong. We have encountered defenses where we were going to really be battling in certain situations. We respect their defense and their team. We are a very different team now. We are making those plays now."

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