AFC West Report: Chiefs Leader of the Pack

With the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders dropping to 0-2 and the Broncos looking average at 1-1, the Kansas City Chiefs are looking great at 2-0. They could take a commanding lead within the division this week as the rest of the AFC West is about to hit the panic button. A win in Denver on Monday Night against the Broncos and the Chiefs would be in a position to start running away with the west.

As far as last weekend goes, the fact that the referees in Sunday nights game between Kansas City and Oakland did not do the Raiders any justice; it seems a moot point anyway and the Chiefs may be strolling towards the division crown just two games into the season.

The Chiefs were helped out on a few scoring plays that may have been the difference in the game. Raiders return man Chris Carr fumbled a punt immediately following the Chiefs first drive. It set the Chiefs up in the red zone and was later capped off by a Priest Holmes leap into the end zone. The Raiders felt that Carr was touched before the ball fell to his arms but replays showed he simple misjudged the ball. Granted the Chiefs player were close in proximity, it was enough that Carr lost focus on the ball.

Later in the game, the Chiefs were later helped out in the second quarter by an offensive pass interference call on Randy Moss in the end zone. The late flag appeared after Kansas City cornerback Dexter McCleon complained to the referee who was positioned in the bag of the end zone. It has been argued that Moss is a push-off specialist but he felt that he never made that kind of contact during that play. Later a 54-yard touchdown run by LaMont Jordan was taken away by a holding penalty on Langston Walker. But on the play he clearly took down Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson. Still the Raiders compiled a highlight reel and have sent it to the NFL league offices for further review.

Credit can't be taken away from the Chiefs defense that held the high-powered Raider offense to only 17-points on the road. The Chiefs defense held their own on the final Raiders series. The Raiders had four chances to score from the 14-yard line but could never hit pay dirt as the Chiefs defense stiffened by making a pair of solid plays on third and fourth downs.

The Chiefs can really make their mark on Monday night with a win over the Broncos in Denver. In what will surely be a hostile environment for the Chiefs, Kansas City will look to go 3-0 and secure a hold on the AFC West. The best the rest that the division could hope for would be 1-2, giving the Chiefs a commanding lead after September.

For the Denver Broncos, they won a game that they were favored to win but many expected them not to have a similar result like the one they had in Miami to open the season. The Denver defense got just enough help from the offense to shut down the San Diego Chargers. Last year the Chargers finished as one of the top offenses in the league but after two weeks this season they have fallen to the 27th best.

Bronco cornerback Champ Bailey, playing with a separated shoulder, showed why he's the team defensive leader. He and linebacker Ian Gold appear poised to be the veterans to lead this defense. Bailey's third quarter interception return for a touchdown put the Broncos in a position to win the game. Two other keys to the Broncos defense, safety John Lynch and linebacker Al Wilson harassed the Chargers quarterback Drew Brees all day.

The Denver defense will have to come up big again against Kansas City whose offense, as usual, ranks among the best in the league. A win by Denver on Monday night will propel them to 2-1 and a tie for first with the Chiefs. As we mentioned, a Denver loss and Kansas City would throttle the rest of the division. You'd clearly have to give the Chiefs an advantage because the lead is so large early in the season.

For the Raiders, they will take their second trip to the east coast in three weeks. After losing to the New England Patriots to open the season, they take on the Super Bowl runner-ups the Philadelphia Eagles. Last week the Eagles crushed the 49er's 42-3 rebounding well from their opening Monday night loss to the Falcons. Donovan McNabb showed no ill effects from his sternum injury suffered in week one and he will be ready to go against the Raiders.

For the Raiders it's a must win. Granted their schedule is one of the toughest in the league, they have to make a better showing than what they have done thus far in the regular season. Unfortunately for Oakland wide receiver Ronald Curry injured his left Achilles for the second time in less than a year and he'll be lost for the season. Thus it looks like four-headed wide receiving monster Oakland had hoped would terrorize the NFL this season won't get a chance to accomplish that this season. With Curry on the shelf, Doug Gabriel is still waiting to get on the field but he's still nursing an injured finger.

Those injuries should allow opposing defensive backs to key on Randy Moss and Joey Porter. This also gives Kerry Collins fewer options, and that is the last thing he needs after being booed at home after throwing the ball away many times on third and short. The Eagles should be at full strength for the 1:00 EST kick-off at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Chargers are in a bad spot Sunday night and the side bar stories centered on this game will not help out their situation at all. Eli Manning and the New York Giants will come to Qualcomm Stadium for Sunday's nationally televised game in San Diego. The former number one pick overall in 2004 will come back to play against the team he gave the cold shoulder.

The Chargers drafted Manning with the number one overall pick but traded that pick just 45 minutes later for now back-up Phillip Rivers. Manning was very clear that he didn't want anything to do with playing for the Chargers. He indicated a strong guarantee that he'd likely holdout for a season instead of signing with San Diego. This weekend the pressure won't fall on Rivers to get the Chargers off of the snide but Drew Brees will have to lead the way if the Bolts hope to get their first victory of the season.

With all of the expectations after last season, Brees has yet to have his defining moment in 2005. The Chargers have had two opportunities to finish off opponents but have managed to lose both of those winnable games. Brees will need an all-pro effort on Sunday night. Charger fans will find it a tough pill to swallow if Manning and the Giants send them to 0-3 with a tough schedule still to come, If that happens then you could star hearing chants for back-up quarterback Phillip Rivers.

LaDainian Tomlinson is still not getting the touches he needs to jump-start the offense. Tomlinson did set the NFL record last week for the most consecutive games with a touchdown but that's not what is important to the consummate professional. Tomlinson has made a living in the past catching balls in the flats and racking up yards after the catch. After two games, he doesn't have a single reception. Granted he's faced two very tough defenses to start the season. The Chargers opponents have held him to only 124 yards rushing and 3.3 yards per carry. He has yet to run a ball for over 20 yards.

To the Chargers credit they are not pointing fingers and they all accept responsibility for the poor start. Marty Schottenheimer says his team just needs to know how to finish.

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