AFC West Report: Chargers In Good Shape

Just one week into the NFL season, the San Diego Chargers are looking to go up two games on at least one team in the AFC West. There's also a good chance that two teams will find themselves two games out of first place Sunday night.

Igor Olshansky said this preseason that the San Diego Chargers would have the best run defense in the NFL. It appears he knew what he was talking about. Raiders running back LaMont Jordan was held to just 20 yards in the Chargers win at the Black Hole last Monday night. While the run defense was outstanding, San Diego's pass rush was just as dominant. Raiders quarterbacks were sacked nine times.

Shawne Merriman led the defense with three sacks. Those who thought that Philip Rivers would have to exceed Drew Brees' performance for the Chargers to succeed may be wrong. If the Chargers can get to quarterbacks as quickly as they did against the Raiders, the secondary will have some pressure taken off of them and that may be enough to carry the team. Besides Merriman and Olshansky, second-year defensive end Luis Castillo has turned out to be a great player also.

LaDainian Tomlinson enters week two trailing Warrick Dunn for the NFL rushing lead. Tomlinson piled up 131 yards against the Raiders, and that number could have been substantially higher. Marty Schottenheimer decided to give Michael Turner the bulk of the carries after halftime.

Rivers had it easy in his first start, and it was a good game to get his feet wet as an NFL starter. He completed just 8-of-11 passes for 108 yards a touchdown, but he managed the game well and made the plays when he had to.

The Chargers should find some success against a young Tennessee Titans team this week. Kerry Collins will start, but Vince Young may see a few series. With Collins at quarterback, the Chargers' pass rush has a statue for a target, and we may see an NFL record set for sacks in consecutive weeks.

For Tennessee, tight end Erron Kinney and defensive end Antwan Odom are out. Jacob Bell, Ahmad Hall, Travis Henry, Benji Olson, Robaire Smith and LenDale White are all questionable.

For the Bolts, Aaron Shea is doubtful while Kris Dielman, Leander Jordan, Ryan Krause and Olshansky are questionable. Kick-off is at 1:15 p.m. PST and the weather should be Sunny with game-time temperatures around 77 degrees at Qualcomm Stadium.

The loser of the Chiefs-Broncos game could easily fall two games out of first place this week. Although it is still early, it won't be the easiest thing in the world to jump right back into contention. Kansas City and Denver have had some classic battles over the years, but the Chiefs come in as huge underdogs. Trent Green will miss the contest with a concussion after starting 81 games in a row.

Under center this week will be Damon Huard, 5-1 in his career as a starter. Huard played well in relief of Green last week, throwing for 140 yards and a score.

Look for Larry Johnson to get a big workload on Sunday. The Chiefs will try to tilt time of possession in their favor and keep the Broncos off the field. Tony Gonzalez caught Huard's touchdown pass last weekend, and with a receiving corps that has proven little so far, Huard may look his way early and often.

Mike Shanahan named Tatum Bell the starter at running back this week after he shared the load with Mike Bell in last Sunday's loss to the St. Louis Rams. Mike Bell rushed for 58 yards and Tatum Bell rushed for 103 yards but also fumbled. Turnovers don't sit well with any coach, least of all Shanahan, who may already have quarterback Jake Plummer on a short leash.

It didn't take long for Jay Cutler's supporters to come out of the woodwork after Plummer was sacked four times and threw three interceptions against the Rams. Plummer's quarterback rating was a dismal 26.3, and it might not be long before Cutler gets his chance, especially if the Broncos struggle against the Chiefs this week.

The Chiefs have no other significant injuries besides Green's concussion. Defensive end Courtney Brown will be out for the Broncos. Game time is slated for 2:15 p.m. MST with a partly cloudy sky and a game time temperature around 71 degrees.

If the Raiders don't improve on their performance from last week, it could be the beginning of another long season out in Oakland. The Raiders were not able to generate any significant offense in their first game, and they barely sniffed the end zone. The defense was just as bad, allowing the Chargers to rack up 194 yards rushing.

The Raiders have a huge challenge going into Baltimore to face the Ravens for a 1:00 p.m. EST kickoff. Baltimore looked almost unbeatable last weekend, crushing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-0 on the strength of a strong defense and a rejuvenated Steve McNair.

That's bad news for the Raiders, who seem to be going in the opposite direction. Baltimore is always a tough place to play for road teams.

LaMont Jordan will need more carries this week after only getting 10 against the Chargers. Oakland needs all the production they can get out of Jordan after trading away Doug Gabriel and benching Jerry Porter.

With those two out of the picture, Randy Moss will get a lot of attention from Baltimore's defense. If Moss and Jordan are shut down, the Raiders will probably get blown out again. Oakland's defense will have to show up and match the physical nature of the Baltimore offense if the Raiders are to have any chance of winning.

Left tackle Robert Gallery will be out for Oakland while cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, cornerback Chris Carr, defensive end Kevin Huntley and linebacker Sam Williams are all questionable. The Ravens have no significant injuries. Forecast for the game is mostly sunny skies and game time temperatures around 84 degrees.

Update: The Quest for 7,000

I wrote this preseason that there would be a good chance for the division's four starting running backs to rush for a combined 7,000 yards. Several things have changed since then. Mike Bell emerged in Denver, Doug Gabriel was traded and Jerry Porter was benched in Oakland and Willie Roaf retired in Kansas City. At this juncture, it looks like even 6,000 total yards will be a stretch, but the AFC West Report will continue to keep track.

Week 1: LaDainian Tomlinson, LaMont Jordan, Larry Johnson and both of the Bells combined for 370 yards and are on pace for 5,920 yards on the year.

Email Steve your AFC West questions to steve@tailgateplayers.com.

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