Chiefs at Chargers preview

As the NFL heads into Week 15, Chicago and San Diego are the lone division champs. No other playoff spots have been claimed. Five division titles can be won this week.

The jockeying for each conference's Wild Card spots? It's as tight as linemen on a kneel-down. In the AFC, two clubs are 8-5 and three 7-6. In the NFC, three teams are at 7-6. And then there are the teams bunched right below that level.

"There is still a ton to play for," says San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, who has led the Chargers to the AFC West title in his first year as a starter. "You'll see a hungry team out there the next few weeks. We're playing for a lot."

Three weeks to go. Little margin for error. Every game critical. In fact, 13 of this weekend's 16 games have tiebreaker implications.

One goal down, another one reachable Sunday night. That's the mission of the San Diego Chargers (11-2), the top-ranked team in the AFC. The Bolts won the division last week, their second crown in three years, and can earn a first-round bye this week.

Coupled with those possibilities is Chargers wunderkind running back LaDainian Tomlinson possibly breaking another revered NFL record. Last week, Tomlinson established the league mark for season TDs with 29. Sunday night he can surpass an NFL record that has stood for 46 years – most total points scored in a season. Green Bay Packers Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Paul Hornung registered 176 points in 1960. Tomlinson enters Week 15 with 174 points.

With all the Tomlinson fireworks, the Chargers this week can secure a first-round bye with a win and an Indianapolis Colts loss.

The top two RBs in the business – as far as rushing yards are concerned – square off. Kansas City's Larry Johnson leads the league in rush yards with 1,432 – a scant five yards in front of San Diego's new NFL TD record-holder (29) LaDainian Tomlinson (1,427). The Chargers' No. 7 rush defense has surrendered only five 100-yard games since 2004. Johnson has two of them, including 132 this past October 22 in a 30-27 KC win.

Two of the NFL's top tight ends square off. KC's Tony Gonzalez and SD's Antonio Gates join Cleveland's Kellen Winslow as the league's only TEs with 60 catches. Says four-year vet Gates of seven-time Pro Bowl selection Gonzalez: "Tony has definitely set a high standard at tight end. He's done it year in and year out."

SERIES

  CHIEFS CHARGERS
SERIES LEADER 49-42-1  
STREAKS   3 of past 5
COACHES VS. OPP. Edwards: 4-1 Schottenheimer: 6-6
LAST WEEK L 20-10 vs. Ravens W 48-20 vs. Broncos
LAST GAME 10/22/06: Chiefs 30 at Chargers 27. Kansas City K Lawrence Tynes converts game-winning 53-yard FG with 6 seconds left in 4th quarter. Chiefs RB Larry Johnson runs for 2 TDs.
LAST GAME AT SITE 11/30/05: Chargers 28, Chiefs 20. San Diego TE Antonio Gates has 10 catches for 145 yards & 3 TDs. Chargers LB Shawne Merriman records 2.0 sacks & forces fumble.
BROADCAST NBC (5:15 PM PT): Al Michaels, John Madden, Andrea Kremer (Field reporter). Westwood One Radio: Dave Sims, Bob Trumpy, Kevin Kiley (Field reporter). SIRIUS: 123 (Westwood); 125 (KC), 130 (SD).

STATS

PASSING Green: 72-112-828-5-5-82.7 Rivers: 247-383-2,879-18-6-96.3 (3C)
RUSHING L. Johnson: 333-1,432 (1L)-4.3-13 (2L) Tomlinson: 285-1,427 (2L)-5.0-26 (1L)
RECEIVING Gonzalez (TE): 60-759-12.7-5 Gates (TE): 64-798-12.5-8 (T1C)
OFFENSE 324.2 366.2 (2C)
TAKE/GIVE +2 +11 (T2L)
DEFENSE 323.5 294.3
SACKS Allen: 6.5 Merriman: 12.5 (T1L)
INTs Law: 3 Jammer: 4
PUNTING Colquitt: 44.6 (2C) Scifres: 43.3
KICKING Tynes: 85 (28/29 PAT; 19/25 FG) Kaeding: 111 (1C) (51/51 PAT; 20/23 FG)

Four of the past 5 games coached between Herman Edwards (NYJ '01-05) and Marty Schottenheimer have been decided by 6-points-or-less, including '04 Div. Playoffs (OT).

CHIEFS:

Club has won three of past four at San Diego in December. Assistant coach and Hall of Famer Charlie Joiner was 3-time All-Star for San Diego (1977, '80-81).

Quarterback Trent Green is 7-4 (.636) in career as starter versus San Diego. In past two starts versus San Diego, Green has four touchdowns versus zero interceptions.

Running back Larry Johnson has 100+ rush yards in seven of past eight starts; leads NFL with 1,432 rush yards. Johnson (43) needs one rush touchdown to tie Hall of Famer Marcus Allen (44) for 2nd most in team annals (Priest Holmes, 76).

Tight end Tony Gonzalez (61) needs one touchdown to tie Shannon Sharpe (62) for most touchdown catches by a tight end in NFL history.

Defensive end Jared Allen has sack in each of past two versus San Diego.

CHARGERS:

Have clinched AFC West; earn 1st Round bye with win and Indy loss. Has won 12 of past 16 versus division. Win would be team's 12th, tying club record for most in season.

Quarterback Philip Rivers is 6-0 as home starter, completing 112 of 177 (63.3 percent).

Last week Running back LaDainian Tomlinson scored 29th touchdown for NFL season record, surpassing Shaun Alexander (28, 2005). Tomlinson (174) needs three points to surpass Hall of Famer Paul Hornung (176; GB, 1960) for most scored in season and needs two touchdowns to surpass NFL record for consecutive games with multiple touchdowns (Hall of Famer John Riggins, seven, 1983).

Wide receiver Eric Parker (42) needs five catches for 47 for third year in row. In five career games versus Kansas City, tight end Antonio Gates has eight touchdowns, including at least one in every meeting.

Defense sacked quarterback Green four times in last meeting at San Diego. Club leads NFL with 48 sacks, topped by linebackers Shawne Merriman (12.5) and Shaun Phillips (10.5). Cornerback Quentin Jammer has interception in two of past three games.


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