Start Fast, Finish Strong

If the Chargers hope to maintain their winning ways, the key will be getting off to a fast start this weekend in Kansas City. That has been a struggle thus far for the Chargers.

They are averaging less than six first-quarter points per game despite scoring more than 30 points per contest.

"You don't want to get them going or you're playing from behind again and we don't want to play from behind," Kansas City head coach Herman Edwards said. "We really don't. That's not a good sign for us offensively, for anybody playing a really good defense."

Jumping out in front of the Chiefs will help on a couple of fronts. First, it will help to quiet the raucous crowd at Arrowhead. Second, it will force the Chiefs to abandon the run, which will limit Larry Johnson's productivity and allow Shaun Phillips & Co. to pin their ears back and go after Damon Huard.

"It is a pretty tough place to play," LaDainian Tomlinson said. "They start fast and once they start fast the fans are hard to deal with. It adds momentum to their defense."

In order to keep momentum on their side, the Chargers will need to take care of the football and win time of possession. They are certainly capable of doing so; they rank second in turnover margin and third in time of possession.

Winning both of those crucial categories will be much easier if the team can get its running game going again. Despite the presence of Tomlinson, regarded by many to be the most dangerous offensive player in the league, the Chargers averaged less than three yards per carry last week in San Francisco.

"We haven't made it as clean as we need to make it," said Marty Schottenheimer of the running game.

The Chargers come into this contest with a bull's-eye on their backs, as they have suddenly become a trendy pick to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLI. For the Chiefs, a win would make the statement to the rest of the NFL that they, too, are contenders.

The AFC is already crowded at the top, however, and the Chargers don't want to let another team in on the party. To a man, they are more worried about protecting their own lofty position.

"I don't think we need to deny the fact of what we want to be and where we are. It's OK to be a good team, and we want to be a good team and we want to win a championship and that is what we are trying to do," Philip Rivers said.

This game has a playoff feel about it – not for the Chargers, but for the Chiefs. A Chargers victory just about eliminates Kansas City from playoff contention, dropping them three games back in the top-heavy AFC West.

It is time for Coach Schottenheimer to show the killer instinct he is so often criticized for lacking, and to do so against his former team. That's not just ironic; it's the mark of a great team.

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