With numerous divisional games to be played this weekend in the NFL, they all take a back seat to that of the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers. There is little doubt that both teams have a great offense but where this game will be won is on defense where both are still searching for their identity. The Chiefs and Chargers come into Sunday's game at Qualcomm Stadium a little undervalued on offense with the Chiefs ranking 9th overall and the Chargers at 14th best in the NFL. .
On defense it's a whole different story. The Chargers come in ranked 21st overall in defense and the Chiefs find themselves in their typical placement with the 27th best in the league. Both are even worse when it comes to pass defense. The Chargers at 29th and the Chiefs right behind them at 30th overall in the NFL.
The Chargers defense was actually impressive last week in Philadelphia hounding Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb repeatedly and forcing the Eagles to have to win the game on special teams. The Chiefs allowed a sub par Miami offense to score 20 points in a shortened week due to Hurricane Wilma.
But with the win on the short week comes a double positive for the Chiefs. They will have had nine days to prepare for the Bolts and a chance to watch them first hand on Sunday afternoon where the Eagles held LaDainian Tomlinson to 7 yards rushing, a feat that the Chiefs can only dream of accomplishing.
With the Chargers losing all four of their games by a combined 12 points this again should be another AFC West classic in southern California. Still the attitude is upbeat on offense as it comes at the perfect time where points will be needed to win this week. The Chiefs offense is just as optimistic as they piled up a season high 462 yards in the win last week at Miami.
The Chargers list ten players on the injury report as questionable, a listing that has become popular with Marty Schottenheimer. They include linebacker Donnie Edwards, safety Drayton Florence, cornerback Sammy Davis, linebacker Randall Godfrey and kicker Nate Kaeding. Kansas City will be without cornerback Dexter McCleon, wide receiver Sammie Parker, safety Jerome Woods, right tackle Kevin Sampson and defensive tackle Ryan Sims.
Kick-off will be at 1:15 PST in San Diego. With a win and a Broncos loss the Chiefs can move into first place. The best-case scenario for the Chargers has them a game out of first place if they can beat Kansas City and the Broncos fall at home to the Eagles.
The Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles are two different animals heading into their Sunday showdown at Invesco Field. The Broncos come into the game with the NFL's second best rushing attack averaging 158.7 yards a game with eight touchdowns and an even 5.0 yards per carry every time they touch the ball.
The Eagles are just as bold on offense except they prefer to move the ball through the air with the NFL's best passing attack. Philadelphia averages 299.7 yards a game through the air with a couple yards shy of 1800 yards passing so far on the season. A tough and banged up Donovan McNabb has accounted for all but 49 of those yards with 12 touchdowns and just 5 picks. McNabb has been playing through pain with the chest injury that supposedly will require surgery once the season ends nine weeks from now at least.
The Eagles come into the game 20th overall and the Broncos sit at 22nd but both have played better than that at times. The game plan for Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan Broncos will be to get pressure on McNabb and make him feel pain, much like the Chargers did last week. For the Eagles, look for Shanahan's counterpart, Andy Reid to get Brian Westbrook the ball a little bit more keeping the pressure off of McNabb and setting up the Eagles full throttle attack. Westbrook has only 256 yards rushing so far on the season with only one touchdown.
In order for either team to win this game Sunday, they'll each need play a physical football game and big hits can be expected on both sides of the ball. Jake Plummer has had it easy so far this season but he'll find a different kind of test this week in the Eagles championship style defense. For the Broncos to win Plummer will need to have as a consistent game as he's had all year long. Home field will definitely be an advantage for the Broncos as their fans have been happy thus far with the first place Broncos. But remember the Eagles beat the Chiefs in Kansas City in week three after trailing 17-0 in the second quarter.
Kicker David Akers will be out for the Eagles while Jason Short is doubtful. Lito Sheppard is questionable. The Broncos Sam Brandon is doubtful and Lenny Walls is questionable for the game. Dwayne Carswell is out indefinitely after being the victim in a head on car crash on his way to team headquarters. He remains in critical but stable condition but he won't be back this season. The twelve-year veteran suffered multiple broken ribs, a ruptured diaphragm and lost his spleen after his driver side door was ripped off in the accident.
In 2001 and again in 2004 the Broncos started the season 5-1 only to lose the next two games and fall to 5-3. The Broncos have to keep a firm step on the gas peddle and go to 6-2 as the Chiefs and Chargers are both hungry to take over first place in the AFC West. Kick-off will be at 2:05 MST on Sunday at Invesco Field
The Oakland Raiders look to improve to 3-4 with a win in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans Sunday at Adelphia Coliseum. Even with the wide receiver injuries the Raiders boast the 10th best offense in the NFL while the Titans will come in with the 18th best. The Titans defense ranks 13th on the season while the Raiders come in with the 24th best but they enter this contest with an injury riddled secondary.
The defensive problems at secondary could mean a big day for Steve McNair who didn't play in last week's loss at Arizona but is expected to do so this week. It will be up to the Raiders defensive front that shut down the Buffalo running attack to put pressure on McNair. Free-agent acquisition Derrick Burgess has two sacks in each of the last three games as he ranks among the league leaders.
Oakland has used their off season acquisitions far better than any other NFL team to date. Burgess, LaMont Jordan and, oh yeah, Randy Moss have had success for the Raiders during a brutal stretch in their schedule. Jordan has 432 yards and seven touchdowns so far on the season. Moss averages 23.1 yards a catch but with only 22 receptions for 509 yards. Look for Moss to get the ball more and to have his biggest game of the year this Sunday.
The Titans have a solid defense and they will look to shut down Moss, Joey Porter and Doug Gabriel who had the best game of his career last week in a win over the Buffalo Bills. Kyle Vanden Bosch is having his breakout year with 7.5 sacks and an interception so far.
But these game may center on the injuries, as both the Raiders and Titans will be missing key personnel for Sunday's contest. The Raiders defense will be without Charles Woodson and Derrick Gibson for the year and Langston Walker is out on offense. Jake grove and Randy Moss are both questionable. For the Titans Drew Bennett, Ken Amato and Vincent Fuller are out for the game. Steve McNair, Chris Brown, Albert Haynesworth, Andre Woolfork, Troy Flemming, Brandon Jones, Peter Sirmon and Jarrett Payton are all questionable.
Kick-off will be at 12:00 noon EST on Sunday.
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