It's Officially Chargers Week

Minutes after the Chiefs defeated the Miami Dolphins 30-20 Friday night in what can be described as their finest game of the year, the San Diego Chargers came to mind. I knew when the final score was posted that this victory would put pressure on the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers.

Well it worked, as the Chargers fell to the Eagles on the road 20-17 and the Broncos completed the perfect day by blowing a 13-point fourth quarter lead; losing to the New York Giants 24-23.

The Chiefs trail the Broncos by half a game and lead the Chargers by one and a half. Sunday the Kansas City Chiefs travel to San Diego to face a Chargers team that has already laid two eggs at home; they lost to the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers. Even further, the team is in the midst of a power struggle for control of the franchise as General Manager A.J. Smith and Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer continue to clash over personnel.

The Chargers are a franchise that is struggling to find an identity. Schottenheimer could be second guessed all day long yesterday for his play calling late in the game. The Broncos, on the other hand, have been very fortunate to squeak out several wins this year. Their luck ran out Sunday as the Giants took a single point lead with just two-seconds left on the clock. For Denver, their schedule only gets tougher from here on out.

With that said, the outcome of next Sunday's match-ups in the AFC West could determine who wins this division. Kansas City travels to San Diego and the Broncos host the Philadelphia Eagles. In fact, this game Sunday against the Chargers could be the biggest game in the Dick Vermeil era. The Chiefs have not played very well in San Diego, but will be the benefactor of an extra couple of days off to prepare for the Chargers.

Vermeil will give the players Monday off and then get them back on the practice field. My guess is that these players will want to practice this week after their resounding win at Miami. Add to the fact the Chargers and Broncos both blew fourth quarter leads, Kansas City will be in a position to send a strong message to their division mates with a win Sunday.

The Chiefs can actually catapult themselves into the drivers' seat in the AFC West if they can put another solid road game together. With a win, and let's presume for a minute the Broncos lose at home next Sunday, Kansas City will take over the lead in the division. The Broncos, who have wilted under pressure the last two years and limped into the playoffs, don't want Kansas City trailing them too close.

The Chargers, if they lose to the Chiefs, will be on life support the rest of the season. Schottenheimer has yet to implement a game plan that features all-world running back LaDainian Tomlinson. Against the Eagles, the Chargers best offensive threat had 17 carries for only seven yards. Philadelphia dared San Diego to pass the ball. It nearly backfired, but Drew Brees threw a fourth quarter interception that allowed Philadelphia to get back into the game.

This season the Chargers are not the benefactor of a soft schedule like they had in 2004. Instead, they are playing the best teams in the league, and they're unable to win the close games that came so easily a year ago. Plus everyone is gearing up to play them. They know that if you stop Tomlinson the Chargers don't have the offensive consistency in their passing game to win.

The Chiefs, who opened the season with two wins then collapsed in Denver and home against Philadelphia, have come roaring back with wins over the Redskins and Dolphins. Kansas City, to their credit, has played against some of the NFL's best defenses since the season opener.

The last two weeks they played two of the better ones in Washington and Miami. The difference the last two weeks has been the fact they've made plays when they've needed to be made, especially with their defense. On offense, the return of Willie Roaf has sparked new life into the inconsistent running game, and this team is scoring points once again. More importantly quarterback Trent Green has had more time to find open targets, such as Tony Gonzalez who had 7 catches for 67 yards in Miami. That doesn't sound like much, but as much as Green spread the ball, it was a big day for the Pro-Bowler who caught for several critical first downs.

Friday night was a huge win for this team. They overcame so many odds and right in front of our eyes, they matured as a team. Now they have to be willing to do what it takes so they can move up the seasonal evolution to become contenders not only for the AFC West but for the entire conference.

The Broncos might have played their best football of the season during their five game winning streak. Now they face some uncertainty after their loss to the New York Giants. Denver now faces an uphill battle because they have a chink in their armor. They had been riding high since they were blasted on the road by the same Dolphins who were lethargic offensively against the Chiefs. The Giants proved that if you put the ball into the hands of Jake Plummer with the game on the line, then generally he'll fail. That will be the recipe for the rest of the league as the season wares on.

San Diego is in even worse shape. In each of their losses, they've blown fourth quarter leads. In each of those losses they made critical turnovers or misused their personnel. Now they face a must win game against the Chiefs who have their swagger back.

Granted, the Chargers could come out next Sunday upset and focused or they could play sloppy and lose. Either way, the Chiefs have the talent to knock out the Chargers this Sunday. They have the ability to win in San Diego. They have the opportunity to put the defending AFC West champions in their rear view mirror and make the AFC West into a two horse race.

In week three the Chiefs could have done the same thing to the Denver Broncos. Instead they came into the game flat; they looked dazed and confused to say the least and it was their poorest performance to date. Those things happen. Every team has one of those games where nothing works and one team gets momentum, and it's lights out. The key will be what Kansas City learned from that experience.

It's would be huge for KC to score on their first possession this Sunday. That sets the entire tone for the game and it puts the Chargers on notice that their defense is not up to the standards that can prevent Kansas City from scoring touchdowns. As Vermiel is fond of pointing out, great teams are teams that keep losing teams losing.

Still this is a game that even if the Chiefs lose, they'll still hold an edge on the Chargers with their re-match set for late December in Kansas City. The Chargers are not the best cold weather team. In fact, that game might not have any significance to San Diego unless they can somehow pickup the broken pieces of their season and defeat the Chiefs this weekend.

So many times over the years, the Chiefs have been the victim of the knockout punch. Now they have the ability with a simple win on Sunday to give notice to the rest of the AFC that this team is for real.

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